Digital video has become a big business, spurred on by the 356 days of "15 days to slow the spread" here in the US. We have seen companies that were not previously in the space enter, and others that were in the space change the way they offer their content. One company that is trying to finish off that transition is Sony, which has announced the end of sales and rentals in the PlayStation Store.
What is Sony Up To?
Later in 2021, Sony will completely discontinue both sales and rentals of all video content from the PlayStation Store. This is a service that has existed for years, but sales have waned. This is not a Sony problem, but a change in consumer behavior. No longer do people really want to buy or rent digital content. If they want to buy, it's going to be on physical media, and if they just want to watch it, it's going to be on streaming.
Rather than focusing on the licensing and distribution of digital content through the PlayStation Store, the company has focused on an area of the industry where they already have standing: anime. The company's Funimation division recently acquired anime streaming service Crunchyroll, which puts Sony firmly in the streaming space, in a niche market where no one else really thrives.
Why the Pivot?
Consumer behavior has changed in recent years. Some of it has come because of convenience and cost. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Paramount+ give a ton of content for a small monthly fee. That is generally preferable to paying almost the same amount to rent a single movie for a night or two.
For some, the behavior change has come because of longevity. Making a purchase of video content on a digital distribution platform does not mean that you own it. It's a confusing scenario, made a little clearer when Amazon won a lawsuit for deleting purchased content, because you are not buying the video, but access to it. This has shifted purchasers back to physical media, which cannot be revoked. The inability to revoke access has become even more important in recent months as companies pull content that they decide you should not be allowed to see based on their view of the world.