six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

And they have a plan… to remove your shows

Battlestar Galatica cast

I have come to accept that, for a great many people, renting is better than owning. Yet the idea of paying a monthly fee for access to a library of stuff has always made me uncomfortable.

I bought a year-long subscription to Beats Music a while back, and while I do listen to it from time to time, when I find an album I like, I buy it. I buy it even though I could download it within the Beats Music app and listen to it there, even offline.

Part of the reason is convenience. I listen to music a lot when I’m using my Mac—Death Cab for Cutie’s “Tiny Vessels” is playing right now—and Beats Music doesn’t have a Mac app. (Beats’s new owner should probably address that…) But other services have Mac apps, so if it really meant that much to me, I could switch to, say, Spotify.

The truth is, I have a large collection of music, and it’s all in iTunes and iTunes Match, and it’s awfully convenient. More importantly, it’s mine. There’s zero chance that it will disappear tomorrow. I’ve got it on hard drives, and backed up to various cloud services.

Streaming-music service libraries are, for the time being, stable. Chances are good that I won’t ever turn on Beats and discover that every Death Cab for Cutie album has vanished from the service’s library.

Netflix logo

The same, however, is not true with online video-streaming services. I was reminded of this when I discovered today that the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” series expires from Netflix on Tuesday. Someone, somewhere, will be in the middle of watching or re-watching that series next week, only to see it disappear. And it’s just one of dozens of items that will drop off of Netflix at the end of the month.

It’s not as if “Battlestar Galactica” is going out of print; you’ll be able to buy it at Amazon in digital and physical varieties, and download it from iTunes, too. Its disappearance from Netflix may coincide closely with its appearance on another streaming service. Who knows?

The point is, if you’re a Netflix subscriber—or an Amazon Prime customer, for that matter—you are binge-watching in a Barcalounger in a rumpus room built on shifting sands. If your service and the owner of the content can’t come to an agreement, if some competitor swoops in offering more money for exclusive rights, you’re out of luck. The rug can, and will, be pulled out from under you.

So yes, go binge-watch “BSG” while you can. It’s one of the best sci-fi shows of the last couple of decades, though it sort of falls apart toward the end. While you’re at it, maybe watch “The African Queen”, “Prime Suspect”, “Crimson Tide,” “Ghostbusters,” and “A League of their Own.” The autumn is here, and winter will surely follow.

I love video streaming services. I subscribe to more of them than I probably should, considering that I am now technically a gentleman of leisure. But the constant disappearing of content sours the entire experience.

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