In the past few years, our options for accessing entertainment have grown considerably. This increased access has changed the way these industries function. Brick and mortar stores like Blockbuster, Borders, and even the iconic Virgin Megastore in Times Square are disappearing as people head online to get their entertainment. Many companies are going this route because there are fewer overhead costs associated with running a business primarily online. The benefit for the customer is that there are now more and cheaper options available. In general, with increased options, prices are driven down across the board.
Music sites and applications like iTunes or Amazon’s MP3 Store allow people to buy single songs rather then the whole album. Some musicians allow individuals to purchase songs directly from them on their websites and many basically give their songs away. This new structure for shopping for music has caused many independent and chain stores to close and the power of record companies to shrink. The price of full albums has gone down, but the price of concert tickets and merchandise has risen to compensate for lower album sales.
Another way that people are accessing music more easily is from streaming radio sites like Pandora and Grooveshark. These sites allow for free customizable radio with limited commercials. Many people use this type of service as their main household music source in place of buying music from a brick and mortar shop or even from an online source.
The face of books has changed in the past couple years as well. Thanks to eBooks, people can buy digital books directly from sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble and have them instantly downloaded onto their handheld device. The prices of these digital books are usually significantly cheaper and the online stores never sell out.
Rather then pay hefty monthly prices for satellite or cable TV, many people opt to stream television and movies from an online source like Netflix or Hulu. The competition in the TV industry has pushed network channels to upload their most recently aired episodes onto their websites.
The way we access our entertainment has changed drastically thanks to the Internet. Television, books, and music found on the Internet are much more cost effective, but this may change. Recently Netflix altered its model of offering both online streaming and physical DVD rentals and also raised its prices. Many articles have been written speculating whether this will hurt or help their business plan. As we see physical stores disappear and online stores become our only option, we may see more sites follow in the model pioneered by Netflix. We will just have to wait and see.