TV is turning into a Buffet and it’s not all you can eat.

It’s hard to believe there was a time before the age of on-demand television. Back when I was a kid you had to schedule out your week based on what you were going to watch with the help of a TV guide. Planning your viewing schedule was important, because if you missed it was like waiting for another solar eclipse to happen. For years cable held the monopoly over the home entertainment world.  If you wanted to watch certain shows on a few channels you had to get cable and pay for a thousand channels where only a dozen of them might have something decent on. It was kind of a rip-off but for the time it was that or nothing. 

Then in 2006-2007 online streamers Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video came down from the internet space and made first contact with the human race. Some people believe that “first contact streamer day” was more important than the moon landing combined with the discovery of fire.  This would change the media world forever and from it came the action of “Cable Cutting.” People found that it was cheaper to cancel their cable and just stream their favorite shows whenever they wanted. At the time, being subscribed to all three of these streamers might have only cost you 12 bucks a month, which was significantly cheaper than cable.

People everywhere including myself cut the cable cord and relied on streamers to watch all our favorite programs. It was like the rise of the Roman empire if they had television shows. Netflix streamed all our favorite shows from several different networks, as Hulu made sure we were always up to date with the current shows on TV. This was the golden age of at-home media watching and then on February 1st, 2013 it got even better. On this historic day, Netflix released its first original content tv show, “House of Cards,” which was a huge success. The streamers were evolving and started to create original content.  TV scientists thought that any original content created by the streamers was reluctant to fail, but the complete opposite happened. The content got bigger and stronger to the point where streamers had the power to make feature films.  

Streamers allowed writers to have a creative edge and not be at the mercy of a sponsor.

A-list actors were getting involved with streamers’ original content and the writers loved them. Writers had more freedom writing for streamer shows versus network and basic cable. I can tell you from experience that when you write for a network show it can be quite difficult.

You have to rely on a lot of sponsor money to get the show going. The problem with this is that the sponsor believes that they should have a creative say in the project and tend to derail it with ludicrous ideas. The streamers didn’t care, they wanted you to create it and then they would let the people decide if they liked it. This is a model that Amazon took on, they would produce one episode pilots and whichever ones its viewers liked, were the ones that got full seasons. What an amazing time to be a couch potato, or so we thought, because all good things have to be knocked down like a stack of Jenga blocks.  

Photo by Tracy Thomas @stanmeg

You see, Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix were making a ton of subscriber money off other networks and studio shows/movies. It would be like if someone bought your old 1984 Honda Accord and then turned it into the next million dollar Uber ride service. And you have to remember that with streamers there are no royalties. They pay you a flat fee to put your content on their streaming site, even if it gets a billion views you get no extra money. Now wouldn’t that make the inner Hulk in you start to come out and that’s what happened.

Studios and networks started to pull their content from the big three streamers and formed their own streaming services with original content. CBS a prime time network that had been free to watch since 1927 launched CBS digital. A pay to stream service that included original content like “Star Trek Discovery” and “The Twilight Zone.” ESPN launched ESPN plus, DC Comics created DC Universe, Disney created plus, and new ones get created every day. TV and Movies had turned into a buffet but now you had to pay for everything you put on your plate individually. So it went from being just the three subscriptions to where you might have to subscribe to 20 different streamers to get all your content. But if we have learned anything from Hollywood it[s everything from the ’90s that was successful gets its own prime time show again. So I’m pretty sure it’s just a matter of time until Cable makes a big come back because it’s starting to look like the cheap option again. 

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