Let’s be honest, there is a lot of TV out there. This past week has been proof that we are about to reach a point in time when there is simply too much TV. This isn’t the 1970s where there were three big channels and nothing else to really watch on TV. Now there are 5 network channels and five times as many cable channels with their own original projects. There is so much TV out there it is overwhelming.
When I need a DVR to watch all my shows and still can’t record everything on it because too many shows overlap. It is a problem that I’m sure I’m not the only person feeling this way. The issues persist because of the continuing model of tv. We are expected to sit down for appointment TV on a weekly basis. It seems archaic in a world were all but a current season can be watched at the drop of a hat. People binge watch and delay their viewing. Young TV watchers don’t have time for commercials. They are already marketed to in other ways. TV serves as not just a way to blow away a couple hours with the family. TV is instead content that people are seeking out because they enjoy it.
Cable networks seem more willing to break the old form of you tune in to watch when it comes on or you miss out. Many cable networks actually have their own streaming services that allow you to view all new episodes of one of their shows. It is convenient especially in a world were so many people use Hulu to catch up on shows, rather than be ruled by a schedule. That is what it really comes down to. The age of the internet brought about a freedom that companies weren’t quite ready to handle. They don’t have the control they wish and their little plans get upended. It is no longer a world where you just accept what is happening because there is no other choice. It is instead an age of options. If you don’t like that networks force you to watch at a certain time, you can legally opt to get that same programming whenever you choose with half of the annoying ads.
That’s it, I said it. We have options and people embrace them wholeheartedly. The young, the old, all see somethings the same. They don’t want to be told what to do. Instead, they want the illusion that they had a choice. Even if it is a false choice, little better than it’s predecessor. However, the option is there and people are flocking to streaming services. So many people that networks are starting to become concerned. Why is that? Networks only care a little bit about if a show is actually good. The image a show projects for the network is more important. And the image (more specifically how many people see and connect with that image) helps advertisers choose how to spend their dollars. That is what the network cares about. How much money a show can contribute to their nest egg.
Which brings me back to the initial part of my statement, there is so much TV now from so many different sources. As the networks strove to find the formula that would make them the most money in a digital age. The networks seem to have come to a conclusion. That conclusion comes in the form of reality tv, procedurals, family comedies, and shows for nerds. A whole subsect of television for me and my kindred. TV for people who like comics, and science fiction, and things that stray from the beaten path. Networks are hedging their bets particularly with these shows of superheros and zombies because there is an entire population of people out there who will turn in. More importantly, it is the subsect of the population that will make the most noise.If one looked at how the internet reacted to shows like Arrested Development, and particularly Community, one would be baffled by the idea that it wasn’t getting good ratings. The internet was simply abuzz by Community whenever it aired. If there was a little stink in development everyone knew and everyone had an opinion. The show was massive in the eyes of the internet. The show spoke to the part of the internet that would care if the show thrived of faded away. Community proved that fans can be important if they are vocal and active enough.
If it wasn’t for a kickstarter, the Veronica Mars movie never would have happened. People wanted it and with a bit of prodding (and a cast and crew that loved what they were working on) it happened. If it wasn’t for the people who wanted to see more Veronica Mars and weren’t afraid to voice their opinion and throw money in the direction of the project it never would have happened.
Money. That is the key after all. Producers will often be willing to do a project as long as it doesn’t cast a bad light on them, if the money is there. When it is their money they are more timid. However, if it is ours they seem more willing. Honestly, I see this as where TV will eventually go. I don’t think that it is going to happen any time soon. However, 10 years from now the TV landscape will look different. And 10 years after that it our present model will come off as ancient. We’ll wonder why we didn’t get there sooner.
With so much TV out there, it will only continue to grow. But as I mentioned I believe that like the cable networks, streaming services will begin to emerge for studios. There I said it (well I implied it). Networks will begin to fade, or more precisely change. Networks are merely an intermediary to the content which we want. It is the studios that hold the actual power. The studio produces the show. A network merely distributes and helps with funding. However, if people were able to contribute directly to a show they like or more likely contribute to a studio which produces shows they enjoy a network would become unnecessary. Instead the TV you enjoy would then be available through a studio.
Unfortunately, for people who want to get away from commercials, I don’t believe that is going to change. Even if you do fund a studio directly be subscribing similarly to how you subscribe to netflix or hulu, advertisers will still find ways to reach you. Sorry.