Same Episode in 3 . . . 2 . . .
The television industry has hit rewind on innovation
By Brian Burke
We live in a world dedicated to convenience. From summoning strangers on our phone to bring us food or take us to the bar to merely swiping left or right to find a date, every service we pursue allows us to get what we want, when we want, at the lowest price. Why should it be any different when it comes to watching TV—something most individuals do every day. It wasn’t, until recently.
I’m going to take a wild guess and say the majority of people reading this have subscriptions to at least Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, most likely also subscribing to Hulu and premium services such as HBO, Showtime, STARZ, or any of the many others. Ironically, these subscriptions were marketed as “one-stop-shops” for all our favorite TV shows and movies. Cable had become a hassle, not only to pay for but to understand what it is exactly that you are paying for. What once used to be an a la carte billing system, paying for only the channels you wanted, became package billed. As packages grew to include more and more channels, families were paying increasingly more each month for channels they had no interest in watching.
Enter streaming services. Hundreds of shows and movies updated monthly with new content with little to no ads at a low price sounded like the saving grace to paying cable bills that rivaled most student loan payments. All your favorite content in one spot.
A little over a decade later, every major production company has declared their plan for a streaming service offering exclusive viewership of their media. For example, Disney has announced their service Disney+ to be released later this year. Effective upon its release date, unless previously negotiated, all Disney produced content will be pulled from their current streaming and will only be available on Disney+. Thousands of hours of content only accessible on one platform, one bill. Likewise, NBC and Apple are releasing their own streaming services with mostly originally produced content. Starting to look familiar?
Besides our nation-wide love for Super Bowl commercials, the ten minute breaks we use to go to the bathroom or get something out of the fridge in the beginning, middle, and end of our favorite shows have always been the bane of TV entertainment. Streaming services often came with the hope of eliminating these time consuming nuisances. Online streaming gained popularity through convenience but maintained it through lack of ads. Whether it’s limited ads in the beginning of show or no ads at all, allowing for the most successful of late night binges, we love not having to sit through ten minutes of commercials for every half hour of “Parks & Rec.” However, while most streaming services were introduced as ad-free, most have now moved to multi-platform, offering limited ads to no ads in different tiers at corresponding prices of course. Hence, to save a little money, viewers will end up having to sit through ad after ad . . . again.
Netflix changed the world of television in 2007 when they announced they would be streaming content over the Internet. Some say for the better—others disagree. However, looking at the results down the line, it seems nothing has changed at all. Once the major production companies pull their content to only their platforms and offer ads for cheaper subscription prices, we will be right back where we started. The only differences will be instead of channels, we’ll be flipping through services, and instead of one bill that flattens our wallets, it will be twelve.