Television is not like it used to be. For those of us who grew up without cable television, watching the Big Three networks on tube TVs, the difference between our childhood and now couldn’t be more stark. The way we view media in 2016 is like something out of The Jetsons. Today’s audience binge-watches, digesting entire seasons at a time over the course of a single weekend. And it is fundamentally changing the way television shows are created – and how they’re accessed.
Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO GO, and others continue to cultivate more and more interest among the general public. Netflix now has more than 75 million subscribers around the world. It seems like only yesterday Netflix was sending subscribers three DVDs at a time in the mail; now the company has its own original programming. Clearly, streaming is here to stay.
Streaming is Everything TV Isn’t
People may ask, why streaming? Well, there are several reasons. When cable and satellite television cost $100 or more per month, the $7.99 monthly charge for Netflix or Hulu seems practically free by comparison. Even Hulu’s more expensive commercial-free option is only $12 a month, which represents a monumental savings over a complete cable package. And then there’s the convenience.
Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu (again, if you opt for the commercial-free option) presents its content with no ad-breaks. For a generation of people who grew up watching television, this concept is nothing short of remarkable. No commercials. It completely changes the viewing experience. Binge-watching is certainly made easier when there are no commercials to deal with, and new original programming can be developed with this new viewing format in mind.
Watch an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or House of Cards, and it whizzes by at lightning speed. This is due to the tightness of the story telling – which of course leaves you eager to watch the next episode. The removal of ad-breaks has changed the way stories are told. There is no need for cliff-hangers to prevent channel hopping, nor recaps at the beginning of episodes. Streaming platforms provide creators with ideal channels to tell the stories they want to tell, and audiences are noticing.
Must-see TV is No Longer Limited to Thursday Nights
Of course, streaming isn’t succeeding simply because shows are released all at once and viewers can pause and take a break from the show whenever they please. That helps, certainly, but that isn’t the only reason people sign up for Netflix and Hulu. Nor is it due exclusively to our habit for binge-watching. The other reason is that increasingly, we are consuming media on our smartphones. Why limit yourself to watching television at home when you can watch YouTube videos, original programming, and classic movies on-the-go? Many people seem to be asking themselves just that.
Television viewership has been in decline since 2010, and it’s easy to see why. With tablets, smartphones, and laptops, we can now bring our “televisions” with us, wherever we go, and watch the same programming to boot. And the industry has taken note. Service providers like T-mobile are piggybacking on this trend by offering programs like “Binge On,” which allows viewers to stream as much music and video on their phones as they please without eating into their data. It is one more nail in the coffin that will eventually bury traditional television.
We’re in a Golden Age for Media
Believe it or not, binge-watching has changed the world. The good news is that we all reap the benefits. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO GO, and other streaming services (such as the recently announced collaboration between Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection) are producing stellar original content and putting a vast ocean of media right at our fingertips. For the time being, the future looks bright. Whether these services will eventually raise their rates is anyone’s guess, but for now, it’s hard to complain – we’re certainly spoiled for choice.