Game Changer is a game show where the players must figure out the rules as they playAndrew Bridgman with permission for Varsity

As a child, I discovered that some things are only available in certain places. The best meal of your life: some 13-year-old realm you will never return to. Champagne: Champagne, France. Shōgun: Disney Plus or Hulu… Or a Hulu/Disney bundle for $9.99/month.

Recently, the YouTube channel Watcher, known for their true crime investigations and home to former BuzzFeed personalities Ryan Bergara, Steven Lim and Shane Madej, attempted to launch their own streaming service. The pure vitriol towards this decision, found in X threads and their own comment sections, led to the beautiful reversal of these plans in just three days, along with the expected YouTube apology video. Cost of living, people…

“We’ve gone from entertainment fatigue to a state beyond it: entertainment indifference”

There are now so many streaming services that we seem to have invented a new, worse form of cable: Tubi, Mubi, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Criterion, Peacock, Paramount+, MGM+… I thought I was throwing in MGM+ as a fictional service that surely didn’t exist – a little joke – but, unfortunately, it does.

In 2024, those who love to watch have more than enough options to turn to. We’ve gone from entertainment fatigue to a state beyond it: entertainment indifference. When the buffet is so large you know you’ll never reach the end, do you keep walking for miles or sit down with a plate of what you prefer? Streaming services take advantage of this indifference – once you’ve bought your Netflix, you’re going to be a loyal customer for its meagre perks.

“A standout episode involves trapping three players in an elaborate escape room”

The prices keep rising and the password-sharing radius keeps getting smaller until none of the convenience you anticipated remains. If you want to watch the new season of Interview with the Vampire (on AMC+), that’s too bad – get a month-long membership. God forbid you forget to cancel. The CEOs, CFOs, CGOs and CMOs of these companies make more each year than most of your favourite actors, writers and directors will ever make. The inflated costs of subscription services go, not to the art, but to the business – but you know all this…

There is, insanely, a streaming service attempting to do it right. Dropout is an American platform hosting comedy and game shows with a rotating cast of improv comedians. They’ve got internet-famous TTRPG show Dimension 20, where you can watch Hank Green and Monet X Change play D&D. There’s my personal favourite: Gamechanger, a game show where the players figure out the game as they’re playing. A standout episode involves trapping three players in an elaborate escape room. Production values are high, there’s a video out each weekday and the work is as good as any major studio. There are also – thank god – no ads on the app.

Dropout CEO Sam Reich took over CollegeHumour in 2020, turning it into the beacon of creativity that it is todayAndrew Bridgman with permission for Varsity

It’s definitely not for everyone; if you’re looking for a streaming service with movies or scripted TV, this isn’t it. However, what I find most interesting about Dropout is their commitment to the bit. Four years after their inception, Dropout increased its monthly rate from $4.99/month to $5.99/month, which was widely seen as an earned increase. Subscribers already on the platform, though, continued paying $4.99/month. (Conversely, Netflix’s standard plan is $15.49/month and there are no loyalty schemes.)

In December last year – five years after launch – the company undertook their first round of profit sharing among all employees, whether they be freelance or permanent. This creates an environment where people pass it down – employees often do subscription giveaways. Frankly, I can only access Dropout because of their lax password-sharing rules, which the company even encourages. Last year, I shouted into the ether for someone’s password and was lucky enough to get it (thus restoring my middling faith in humanity). Sharing is caring!


Mountain View

Has Bridgerton abandoned the ingredients that made it successful?

Dropout doesn’t solve the streaming service problem but it does provide a welcome, working alternative. That is not to say that Dropout is replicable. As evident from Watcher, success in the streaming world requires time and a healthy dose of luck and experience. CollegeHumor – a comedy sketch production company and the precursor to Dropout – existed for over a decade and a half before it evolved. Compared to the huge audiences of Netflix and Amazon Prime, they’re not raking in numbers but Dropout has found their niche and has stuck to it devotedly.

It’s hard to believe that larger, more lucrative companies cannot provide consistency – not in show quality, subscription costs or employee treatment – so the problem must be that somebody thinks this isn’t profitable. What a shame that profits for suits are prioritised over the people who make those profits possible! There’s a solution here somewhere. If Dropout can do it, surely the rest of the world can follow.