Recent actions of streaming services should raise concern over film preservation


Chenyao Liu

In the digital age, streaming services seem like the norm. Long forgotten are the days of Blockbuster and Redbox; most people don’t even use DVDs anymore. Still, there’s a good reason for this change. 

Streaming services are much more convenient than physically renting a DVD. There’s content available anywhere—on your phone, computer or TV. There’s no pesky ads interrupting every scene. Streaming services were created to be the antithesis of cable. However, with many growing controversies, it may be time to reconsider our reliance on streaming services. 

On Aug. 2,  HBO Max announced it would not release “Batgirl,” a movie which had completed filming months ago. In that month alone, HBO Max removed 68 movies and TV shows from its streaming service, many of which were original content. Additionally, the service pulled nearly 200 episodes of “Sesame Street,”, including an episode where Big Bird learned about death, after the death of Mr. Hooper’s actor, Will Lee. By removing the content, HBO Max can avoid paying licensing fees, costs which quickly pile up. According to CNN, removing these shows will save the streaming site more than $100 million annually. However, this cost-cutting move means dozens of shows and movies will be erased, with no way for consumers to legitimately access them. 

Levon Jihanian, art director for the original animated series “Tig ‘N Seek,” tweeted, “It’s gone. They’re all gone. Like, yeah. I can go on a pirate streaming web site to watch episodes, but my kids can’t. I made this for them.”

While this may seem like a small issue, it’s genuinely concerning. Half of American films produced before 1950 no longer exist. Thousands of movies, TV shows and other audiovisual projects have been lost. If streaming services continue to remove content or not release completed movies due to financial concerns, these works of art could disappear forever. 

Efforts have been made to combat this. The Audio-Visual Preservation project at the Library of Congress works to preserve America’s film heritage. The National Film Registry aims to increase awareness for film preservation. Unfortunately, there’s little public support for funding these projects. 

Films are an integral part of our culture, impacting and reflecting society. Losing these works of art would be detrimental to our understanding of our cultural history. 

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Chenyao Liu at [email protected]

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