ONE minute I was humming along to the soundtrack of Mary Poppins, the next it was drugs, robberies and racial politics in the comedy-drama series Atlanta. That’s how these streaming services get you. One thing leads to another.

My introductory trial of Disney+ was for three months – starting the day after Liz Truss branded a government energy advice campaign a “nanny state” intervention – so the race was on to watch as much premium content as I could over the festive season. After all, I can’t justify paying for a TV licence, a Netflix subscription and a streaming service that’s primarily aimed at under-12s.

Time’s up and I’m not even halfway through Atlanta’s four-series run. The episodes may each be less than half an hour long, but this is a show for savouring, not bingeing. After each episode I need time to digest it, ponder its meaning, Google reviews and theories, and message friends and urge them to start watching too, so we can discuss it.

But of course, they can only watch it too if they subscribe to Disney+.

You might be thinking I could simply buy the DVD or Blu-ray boxset, and loan this out to friends who lack the funds or inclination to sign up for a direct debit simply to indulge me.

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As a so-called geriatric millennial, I was naive enough to think this would be the case. But such a product, as far as I can tell, does not exist. Indeed, it appears seasons three and four were never released on either of those formats. Now they can only be streamed, never physically possessed.

Atlanta tells the story of a college dropout named Earn (played by series creator Donald Glover) whose cousin starts making waves as rapper Paper Boi. Earn offers to become his manager, and it’s against this backdrop that the series plays out – albeit it spins off at many surreal and genre-defying tangents.

Glover is a musician as well as an actor, writer and director, so unsurprisingly the show has much to say about the music industry and its treatment of artists. Paper Boi’s rise to fame in his home city is not matched by a swift increase in income, but most of the people he encounters assume one hit mixtape has made him rich.

One can’t help but wonder how many viewers of Atlanta – which won multiple Golden Globes and Primetime Emmy Awards – actually paid to watch it. Fan forums are full of links to pirated episodes.

I’d have happily forked out £50 for this series – the same price as about six months of Disney+ at the current rate – not just because I want to own it but also to financially reward the creators. The emergence of competing streaming services has added further complexity to what Variety calls “Hollywood’s famously Byzantine formulas for compensating creative talent.”

In an article from last summer titled “The end of ownership: why the battle over paying TV creatives is only getting crazier”, writer Cynthia Littleton explains that, in the past: “studios and producers made most of their money not on the initial primetime run of a series, but through later opportunities to sell the show in syndication and through international licensing”.

The likes of Netflix, Amazon and HBO are requiring initial licences of 15 years, and “with no outside sales opportunities, it’s much harder to put a hard dollar value on a show.”

This isn’t a straightforward case of evil streaming companies raking in the profits while artists are exploited – in November, the Walt Disney Co division that includes Disney+ reported a $1.5 billion loss.

A model that involves paying for the costs of a film or TV series plus an extra chunk for future licensing rights means the streamer taking on risks that do not always pay off. The business model requires that they lure in subscribers with quality shows (or indeed rubbish ones that get people talking) and retain them even when the prices increase.

I expect that by the time Atlanta can be released on DVD, it will be a period piece and DVD players will be even rarer (John Lewis ceased selling them in 2018). I’m old enough to remember when the only options to watch a Disney cartoon were at the cinema (a rare treat), via a Blockbuster rental (ditto) or if it happened to be showing on TV.

Now we have two-tier childhoods, where some have access to decades worth of animation and others can either watch the classics on DVDs their parents have held on to (or obtained secondhand) or must pay a premium to rent them online – if that’s even an option.

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Mary Poppins is available for free on iPlayer for the next 16 days following a Boxing Day screening, but after that, it seems the cheapest way to watch it without a subscription is to order a £4.99 DVD.

I’m all for teaching children about delayed gratification, but it seems harsh that a classic from 1964 is less available to those of modest means than it was in the 1990s.

The way art is funded – whether it is film, television, comedy or music – cannot help but shape what kind of art is produced. Back in the day, it was high-quality television series that merited collector’s-edition box sets. Consider how many great ideas may currently be deemed too risky, and financially non-viable.

Hopefully, the team behind Atlanta cut a great distribution deal, but the show is not purely a commercial product; it has important things to say. The current battle between streaming services is placing great art out of reach for too many. Society as a whole is poorer as a result.