Ben Affleck's 'Spot on' Prediction of Streaming Services Baffles Internet

Ben Affleck predicted the rise of streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix, long before they became a reality.

In a 2003 clip shared to Twitter by Bloomberg anchor, Jon Erlichman, the actor criticizes "the industry" for not keeping up with the pace of changing technologies and new ways to get products to consumers.

"In 2003, Ben Affleck discussed the future of streaming services. This was 5 years before Spotify. And 4 years before Netflix streaming," Erlichman captioned the resurfaced clip.

Affleck made the revelations on a press tour for the feature film, The Battle of Shaker Heights, which he produced through his and Matt Damon's production company, Project Greenlight.

ben affleck prediction
Ben Affleck on stage at the 2022 New York Times DealBook Summit on November 30, 2022 in New York City. A resurfaced clip of him from 2003 shows the actor eerily predicting the future of streaming. Thos Robinson/Getty Images North America

"I believe that the industry has been too slow to embrace and adopt these paradigms. If you look historically at consumer-based technologies, you have basically shareware that introduces the consumer to it at no cost," Affleck started in the resurfaced clip.

"At which point, the consumer is on the hook. They figured it out, they worked out the kinks, they figured out how to interact with it and how to exploit," he added.

"And then you charge a fee, and the consumer is willing to pay that fee. I think an annual subscription-based system is one that works."

Affleck then turned his attention to the music industry to use it as an example of how the future of streaming could work.

"We have the music business, which is a $3.4 billion dollar-a-year business, which is largely about 1.7 million people in the country spending $200 a year. Those same people would spend those $200 each year to have access to basically the entire library of existing music, and of course you re-up your subscription because you continue to pay for new music," Affleck explained.

"Royalties would be paid more directly to the artists. You have less overhead, you have less shipping, less packaging, and you pay no mammoth amount of executives at music companies that are glomming off a lot of that money.

"I believe that paradigm, is the most effective, productive, that Adam Smith would most want," he added.

Affleck was referring to the 18th-century Scottish economist who is often viewed as the 'father of modern economics'. Smith believed that wealth is created out of people's self-interest and productive labor. Therefore, people will use their best resources towards capital investments that are channeled into where profit can be made.

Affleck continued: "I think there are inefficiencies in the market, and I think they're being worked out, and I think file-sharing is pushing the industry toward that balance because of its availability."

The reporter chatting to Affleck then turned the attention of the interview to the potential shift to 'video on demand' (VOD) services. These would help decrease piracy of film and television shows.

"It'll be movies on demand, but it'll be a tiered structure. It'll be like, if you want to watch it the first weekend, maybe it won't be available [on VOD] but as it goes to another stage in its release, it'll become less expensive," Affleck explained.

"But there's a lot more adoption that has to happen technologically speaking right now before people can watch movies or at least integrate it in terms of the PC and web connection.

"The technology is not quite there yet, but it will be, within I would say, five years," Affleck added.

People on Twitter were surprised at Affleck's prediction, writing that it was "impressive."

"Whoa! Spot on with every detail of that prediction!" replied one Twitter user.

Product designer Connor Kirkley added: "Surprisingly bang on." And Food Panda CEO Niklas Oestberg wrote: "Impressive!"

However, it is worth bearing in mind that the iTunes Music Store, which allows users to buy and download songs, launched in April 2003, two years after iTunes itself.

The numbers today back up Affleck's 2003 predictions. Netflix launched its streaming service in 2007, with only 1,000 movies available to stream on demand. It now has a market cap of $143.71 billion and more than 230 million subscribers worldwide. This is an increase by 7.66 million from September, according to Forbes.

As for music-streaming service Spotify, it launched in 2006 and boasts 205 million paying subscribers as of December 2022.

The VOD industry, which includes other streaming giants such as HBO Max, Apple TV+ and Disney+, to name a few, reached a global revenue of $72.2 billion in 2021. It is projected to reach $115 billion by 2026, according to the Business of Apps media website.

The global music-streaming market size was valued at $29.45 billion in 2021, according to Grand View Research.