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Streaming services are an unnecessary university purchase

Finding ways to unwind at university is essential to performing well academically. We all need methods to relax after a long day of studying in the library or taking part in an intensive seminar. There are many societies at Warwick that exist for precisely this purpose – people partake in sporting feats, musical achievements and artistic brilliance that allows them to spend time away from their degree.

I marvel at people who can do all of these things and regard those intellectually challenging activities as unwinding. That won’t be the case for everyone, especially those who find constant socialising exhausting. Many people just want to unwind in front of their computer screens. Whether it’s watching the latest TV boxset or a classic film from the ‘Golden Age’ of cinema, just enjoying whatever is on the screen in the evening can bring pleasure and escapism from the stresses of academic life.

However, many of these services aren’t free. Even before the pandemic, streaming services are reliant on income to fund their programmes and therefore have to charge consumers. Netflix, with over 180 million worldwide subscribers, costs at least £5.99 per month. Amazon Prime, meanwhile, charges £7.99 a month or an annual fee of £79. Disney+, which launched in the UK during the pandemic, also charges £5.99 a month.

Enjoying whatever is on the screen in the evening can bring pleasure and escapism from the stresses of academic life

This sum may not appear to be a lot of money. It is something that, for the richest, is a tiny part of their available disposable income. Especially for those who enjoy the wealth of their parents, any extra money will cost nothing at all. But that is not the case for everyone. Though some receive a generous maintenance loan from the government, there are a number of spending costs. Once rent, purchasing academic texts and food are paid off, there often isn’t a huge amount left over.

Though streaming services are the way forward, I still believe free – yes, free – platforms like the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and All 4 are worth defending. Our generation watches fewer hours of live TV than those before us. That means we’re the perfect audience for catch-up services, which, at their release, were brilliant new forms of innovation.

Financially, they are made for students. Generally, students need a TV licence if they watch any live TV or use iPlayer. However, according to the TV Licensing’s own website, students don’t necessarily need to pay this £157.50 per year. Students may be covered by their parents’ licence if their home address has a TV licence, as long as the student only watches TV on devices powered by its own internal barrier that isn’t plugged into the mains. This is a fantastic way to save money and enjoy services for free.

What about the content available, you may think? Granted, many streaming services have been so financially successful that they’ve been able to fund their own original series. No longer relying simply on delivering what other platforms have created, series like The Crown on Netflix and The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime have been a booming success. However, this is nothing compared to what channels like the BBC and ITV can offer. The quality of television dramas, the range of comedies, the expanse of genres covered is remarkable.

Gradually, I imagine more of the traditional content will transfer from the free catch-up services to the subscription based long-term viewing

Indeed, students should enjoy such content remaining free while they can. The BBC and ITV have jointly launched BritBox, which streams archive BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 content. Costing £5.99 a month, it is clear BritBox’s creation is purely to rival streaming platforms. Gradually, I imagine more of the traditional content will transfer from the free catch-up services to the subscription based long-term viewing. Enjoying such programmes while they are available is clearly a good idea.

Every platform will always contain a brilliant array of cultural content. Unless you’re a professional TV critic, there aren’t enough hours to watch everything. We all have to be selective with what we watch. All 4 in particular are brilliant with their boxsets – I enjoyed Peep Show during my second term of university and look forward to watching Derry Girls this autumn.

The summer holidays gave me the opportunity to try Amazon Prime at an Airbnb. Using the service, I found that watching many TV shows or films on the platform required an extra payment. While the short-term pleasures television brings are wonderful, I can’t help but wonder whether the money would be better spent on a long-term financial commitment like a housing deposit or even a pension.

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