Streaming services are undoubtedly the future of entertainment. Never before has it been so easy and convenient to watch SeaQuest DSV, or whatever show you're wasting your time on instead. But there's also a dark side to this breakthrough in boob-tubery -- because streaming's ability to trump the old television system has also irrevocably damaged television in ways we didn't see coming.
4Having Access To Everything Costs More Than Ever
Brief history lesson: Early television used to be like a really elaborate radio -- you bought a TV, paid a dude to attach an antenna on your roof, and after that it was totally free to watch, because you had to put up with commercials. But unlike radio, television didn't suck, because you didn't have to use your stupid imagination to see what was going on. So we eventually demanded more options, like cable and HBO, as the medium went from dirt free 70 years ago to absurdly expensive today. Now television costs 188 percent more than it did in the 1990s. And that's not counting streaming.
"If seeing The Mountain squash heads makes yoga less boring, then it's worth every penny."
Because we all hate commercials so much, the idea of paying a small monthly fee for commercial-free streaming was so appealing to consumers that every company decided to do it. The craptastic irony there is that since everyone's trying to create original content on their own direct service, they've inadvertently made it more expensive just to have the ability to watch everything that's out there (remember, this ability was totally free back when television could run commercials without pissing off everyone in the universe). Just look at what a subscription to all the major companies will run you:
HBO Now: $14.99 per month
Hulu: $7.99 per month
Netflix: $8.99 per month
Amazon Prime: $99 per year ($8.25 per month)
PlayStation Plus: $49.99 per year ($4.17 per month)
Showtime: $10 per month
Starz: $10 per month
Cinemax: $10 per month
"Don't get too comfy on that couch -- I just upgraded to Premium so we'll have to sell it."
Combine that nonsense with a provider like Comcast charging $79.99 a month for cable and Internet, and that comes to a $154.37 monthly bill to have access across the board. And this isn't even counting some of the upcoming original shows being provided by YouTube, BitTorrent (which is creating a "pro" version of their site), and fucking Overstock.com, which is inexplicably pursuing original programming in a move that could only be predicted by The Onion.
via The Onion
This means there are people reading The Onion and concluding "that's not such a bad idea."
Add those two fees and we're now up to $180 per month, or over $2,000 a year. Plus all the fees that come with pay-per-view and commercial sites like iTunes, Vudu, Yahoo Screen (which will exclusively have the next season of Community), and Vimeo's On Demand. So while a sane person obviously doesn't need to watch everything that's out there -- anyone looking to legally check out Game Of Thrones, House Of Cards, Better Call Saul, and Alpha House would have to shell out over $100 just to watch four popular TV shows. Not to mention that you're now keeping track of four different bills and sites to access, making consolidating devices like Roku and Apple TV more and more necessary. In the end, we're back to needing a box on our TV that lets us watch separate streaming services, or "channels," of shows.
"Next year's model will feature the revolutionary "Rabbit Ears" upgrade
that will make reception even clearer."
So yeah, it's just cable television again -- only it costs more and is impossible to manage. Especially when the different boxes themselves are also making competing content ...
3There's A Conflict Of Interest Blocking Your Favorite Shows
Andersen Ross/Blend Images/Getty Images
So now that there's a million different shows on a million different outlets, it's time for them all to start fighting for your attention like adorable rabid puppies. While competition is theoretically good, the issue is that the rush for everyone to create original content has completely blurred the line between the companies creating TV shows and the platform people use to watch them. Remember when Microsoft came close to competing with Netflix last year?
TV: for when you need a break from video games.
What were the odds that your Xbox would have kept offering the Netflix app if it was directly competing with them? Or PlayStation, now that they they've also begun to make original content? This isn't theoretical either, because Comcast is pretty much guaranteed to deny HBO Go on gaming consoles and streaming boxes -- both the PS4 and Fire TV are entirely devoid of the wacky goings-on of the Lannister family. It sounds dickish, but since we're talking about a company looking to make Comcast obsolete ... why wouldn't they be dicks about it?
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Besides, being dicks just comes so easily to them.
This is the same issue behind Netflix's plans to release the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel as their first feature film. Instead of going exclusively to theaters, the company plans to simultaneously release it on IMAX and as a Netflix exclusive -- something that's causing AMC, Regal, and Cinemark theaters to boycott the film, because they want to protect their business model. Oh, and did we mention that this also applies to the future of entertainment?
As both Samsung and Oculus Rift vie to be the masters of VR hardware, we're either going to choose between two completely different sets of content, or buy two completely different pieces of hardware to be able to watch everything. So instead of working together on a single format like they should, these companies are all using our access as bargaining chips. It's like a bunch of landscapers trying to borrow each other's tools to start their own company -- in the end, we're just left with a bunch of half-mowed lawns. It's like video game consoles, only with movies and television, so we're going to have to buy three different machines to watch all of our movies.
And speaking of quantity over quality ...