Streaming services change how media content is distributed and consumed. The streaming model has become dominant for music. Streaming services have also become increasingly common for TV-content and for books. How do we use streaming services? How are these services designed and with what consequences for media consumption? Who benefits from current changes? These are some of the questions we address.
USE OF STREAMING SERVICES. Compared to the scheduled programming of linear-TV, streamers can decide what they want to watch when. Our studies suggest that viewers deliberately plan what they want to watch, but also that they find it cumbersome to explore all available content. TV retains its social position: we still like to watch in the company of others when possible, and we like talking about what we watch. For music, we see
how using streaming services shape the experienced value of these. Where a lot of existing research focus on how algorithms ?see? users, our material suggests that we also need to understand how users ?see? algorithms. Many find it difficult to grasp how they are categorized as listeners, and how the selection of music presented for them is not random but tailored to their preferences. For books, our results indicate that those who stream books tend to be younger, and these services are more popular among women than men. At the same time, streaming has potential to reach those who are not traditionally avid readers. Streaming of audiobooks represents a distinct reading experience and facilitates for flexible ways of reading books. Yet, the printed book remains important also for those who stream audiobooks.
This part of the project is based on (1) a representative survey with 1500 respondents (2018); (2) qualitative interviews with 30 users of streaming services; and (3) a representative survey with 1000 respondents (2020).
TECHNOLOGY AND DESIGN. Streaming is defined in different ways, but few have typologized streaming across media industries. We propose to understand streaming as a multifaceted phenomenon regarding (1) professional versus user-generated content; (2) legal versus piracy streaming; (3) on-demand versus live streaming; (4) streaming on dedicated versus multi-feature platforms; and (5) niche versus general-audience streaming. We have also analyzed streaming networks, and the components that constitute these networks, and proposed a model that visualizes the relations between these components. Many people believe that the technology impacts what we watch and listen to, since menus and recommendations make certain content easy to find, whereas other content is more hidden. "Contingent availability" is a notion that depicts different levels of availability in streaming services. In this context, and specifically for music streaming, we have also explored what we may term the streaming paradox. How is it that access to vast libraries of music is not necessarily reflected in streamers listening to a diverse selection of music? We discuss how streaming services function as gatekeepers, making certain music more visible for listeners.
This part of the project primarily builds on analyses of services and the networks these services are a part of.
STRATEGIES AND BUSINESS MODELS. Streaming services are large networks where service providers collaborate and depend on content producers, so-called "content delivery networks" that move files over continents outside of the open internet. Money, rights and data on use and users are exchanged between involved actors. National industry actors in TV and film experience greater competition from global superplayers; it is challenging to catch and retain the attention from viewers; yet at the same time, local/national content is a key selling point. Music industry actors emphasize opportunities as well as challenges regarding global markets. There are also challenges related to how a service such as Spotify is turning into a "sound platform" (for example with podcasts), and industry actors emphasize increased competition for time and attention. Industry actors to some extent use listener data for decision making, for example regarding marketing, target groups, opportunities to reach new markets, and future directions for musicians. We have also examined the opinions of actors within the music industry regarding algorithmic curation and cultural-policy goals for diversity. Actors in the book industry consider streaming to be in an early phase, but with potential for continued growth. They hence emphasize the importance of positioning themselves in the market.
This part of the project is primarily based on qualitative interviews with 39 key decision makers in the music, film, television and book publishing industry
Det finnes få sammenliknbare prosjekter som studerer strømme-modellen på tvers av medie-industrier. Timingen for prosjektet har også vært svært god. Vi har undersøkt utviklingen i en tidsperiode preget av endringer både når det gjelder teknologi, tjenesteutvikling, bransjestrategier og publikumsatferd. Resultatene forventes å ha betydning for fremtidig medie- og kommunikasjonsforskning, men også for felt som HCI og tjenesteinnovasjon.
Streaming, understood here as on-demand access to vast digital catalogues of works, combines technologies and business models in a manner that has the potential to profoundly change cultural practice. Since the introductions of YouTube (2005), Netflix (streaming since 2007) and Spotify (2008), streaming has become central to a number of media and culture industries. New streaming practices challenge the culture industries and usher in a new way of relating to end-products as ubiquitous and intangible services rather than scarce, material objects, but still remain under-explored in academic research.
Drawing on recent research currents within media and communications studies influenced by Actor-Network Theory and Social construction of technology, the STREAM project will be looking at 1) the design, technology and repertoire, 2) the usage and practice, and 3) the business models and value networks of streaming media services. This research design enables a cross-disciplinary advancement of theories and methods to capture the complex actor-networks of streaming. Four sections of the culture industries will be examined. Music, television, film and book publishing are all currently seeing developments towards streaming as a dominant or emergent distribution and business model, both in Norway and internationally. While some studies have analyzed streaming in isolated sectors, none have so far examined streaming across the culture industries, taking heed of variances with the streaming media services in question. By producing empirical studies and theoretical concepts of new media technological practices, STREAM aims at genuinely new contributions to the media and communications studies of culture and technology.
To capture the impact of streaming on cultural production and practice, STREAM combines two large survey studies with qualitative interviews with both users and media managers across the cultural sectors, and innovative software studies and digital methods.