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Public libraries offer alternative to streaming services

Posted at 7:43 PM, Feb 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-16 20:43:42-05

FOND DU LAC (NBC 26) — Public libraries are stepping into a new and growing market: streaming. Many now offer free streaming services to library cardholders, just as paid services like Netflix are cracking down on password sharing.

Netflix recently announced that starting at the beginning of April, people who live in different households will either have to get their own accounts or pay to add members.

This could present a problem for people who share Netflix accounts with family and friends. UW-Oshkosh student Austin Myles-Dixon said he shares an account with his parents and sister and isn’t happy about the change.

“It’s kind of bogus,” Myles-Dixon said. “People like the ease of having, you know, like a total family plan that they pay for as opposed to each individual person that has to pay for it. Not everyone can afford a full Netflix package, especially college students.”

Molly Cujak, another UW-Oshkosh student, said she shares with family and friends.

“As long as we're paying for it, I think we should be able to use the services,” Cujak said.

Michael Van Elser, a professor at UW-Oshkosh who teaches a course called “From Netflix to Disney+” said Netflix is trying to regain revenue after reporting high losses in subscribers in recent months.

“They're certainly losing out on a decent amount of revenue from sharing, so there's money being left on the table,” Van Esler said.

Sara Hansen is an associate dean at UW-Oshkosh’s College of Letters and Science and a journalism professor, and she said this is Netflix “redefining” its relationship with consumers.

“That's what they're trying to tell consumers right now: We want to create more content for you. And in order to do that, to keep you entertained, we need to make sure everyone's paying,” Hansen said.

But for those who may lose streaming access once this goes into place, there may be some alternatives.

As the PBS kids show “Arthur” once told viewers, “Having fun isn’t hard. . . when you’ve got a library card.”

This month the Fond du Lac Public Library recently rolled out Kanopy— it's a streaming service offering movies, T.V. shows, and more. And it’s free to library card holders.

“The feedback that we've got from users has been really good,” Fond du Lac Public Library Director Jon Mark Bolthouse said. “It's been very positive. People really liked the content. They liked the access to kind of every platform. One of the nice things about Kanopy is it's available on your phone, or your tablet, on your computer, at home or on your television as well.”

Other libraries offer similar services, like the streaming service Hooplaat the Brown County Library. And while these services, like Kanopy, may not have all of the shows and movies Netflix has (sorry Stranger Things fans), some subscription users like Myles-Dixon said library streaming could be an attractive alternative to paid subscription services.

“I'd totally consider that because one, like, that's kind of the purpose of public libraries and it's an aid, you know?” Myles Dixon said.