Back in 2005, the indie audio and video company, Palm Pictures, partnered with Comcast to launch a new service called Palm Pictures VoD. The service, which offered films, docs, shorts, behind-the-scenes footage and trailers, was divided into four distinct categories – Palm Festival, RESFest Shorts, Palm Independent and Palm Extras. After viewers watched content from the Palm Festival and RESFest collections, they could then vote on on their favorite films and the film with the most votes received a theatrical or DVD release. The digital platform, which brought in over a billion VoD orders in 2005, would update its selection every month. The launch of this new service marked the beginning of the curated streaming service.
With the advent of Netflix, however, the curated streaming service changed drastically. There are now two services that have both been labeled as “Netflix for Indies” – Mubi and Tribeca Shortlist. Mubi is a $4.99 per month streaming service that offers 30 films and adds/removes a film every day. Tribeca Shortlist, also $4.99 per month, offers an 150 film library that adds/removes about 50 films every month. Shortlist’s content has been curated by actors, directors and film influencers also known as “Shortlisters.” How do highly-curated services stand a chance against all-encompassing services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime?
Barry Schwartz is an American psychologist and the author of The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less. In his book he argues that eliminating choices reduces shopping anxiety for consumers, “Though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.” (The Paradox of Choice, 2004). That said, in the limited amount of free time that Americans have, a slimmer film library might be more beneficial and/or desirable. On the flip side, to decrease the time spent selecting, subscribers of all-encompassing services, could add films/TV to their Watchlist that are either titles they haven’t yet seen or dependable re-watchable titles. Either way, content curation is on the rise and expect many more highly-curated streaming services to pop up.