4 Reasons Television Will Totally Suck in the Future
Thanks to shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead, we are finally at the point our elders foretold where we actually want to watch television more than movies. The future of TV looks pretty great ... if you ignore every other trend coming with it. If we truly are living in the Golden Age of television, brace yourself to enter the ... uh, whatever the opposite of Golden Age is. Turd Era?
We're About to Lose Network Neutrality, Which Ruins Competition (Especially for Streamers)
Hey, remember how Netflix's streaming service came out of practically nowhere and dominated the market simply because it was better? Guess what: That can never happen again. If the new Internet laws that are about to come into effect had existed a few years ago, Netflix's idea would have failed faster than you can spell "FCC."
"Yeah, you know me."
Why's that? Because of a little thing called network neutrality. For as long as the Internet has been a thing, the speed at which your ISP connects you to websites has been relatively equal for all corners of the Web, whether you're on some dodgy Russian site looking up porn or a big respectable site like Google, also looking up porn. Some of you are saying, "Bullshit! I tried to watch my buddy's self-hosted My Little Pony fan film and it took forever to load!" Yes, but that's a problem (one of many) on your buddy's end -- it's not like the company you pay to handle your Internetting can intentionally make some sites run slower than others.
At least not yet. We're saying that because the government is actively working to kill network neutrality and make the Internet a crappier place for you. And yes, that affects streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
"Well, well, look who came crawling back."
In April, leaked documents from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission revealed that the government has been fervently planning to shit all over network neutrality, then flush it down the toilet for good. When that happens (and yes, it's a god damn when), ISPs will be able to charge websites and services extra to keep broadcasting at a non-infuriatingly slow rate. Or, even worse and more inevitably, big streaming companies -- you know, the companies that most rely on whether they can stream faster than the clock ticks by -- will have the ability to pay ISPs to make themselves faster than every other streaming company that pops up, making it impossible for any new startup to break the surface. And since you can't overthrow a king who's sitting so high up that his crown is sticking up Uranus, Netflix and YouTube are going to become the new Egyptian dynasties.
The upside is that there are already other alternatives popping up, such as watching high-quality shows directly on your console. Well, about that ...
If You Want to Watch All the Shows for Gamers, You Have to Buy Every Single Console
One of the most hyped new features of the latest generation of consoles is the introduction of specially made "entertainment experiences," which is a fancy way of saying "TV shows approved by the same people who put out the games you love."
"Get ready for a whole bunch of shows about shooting!"
Well, with these next-gen consoles out and plaguing more and more living rooms by the day, both Sony and Microsoft have already started on their promises -- Sony's first series, Powers, is an adaptation of the Marvel-published comic book of the same name and is produced by the people behind shows like Breaking Bad and Community. Microsoft, on the other hand, in its never-ending quest to try to one-up Sony at everything, recently released a slate of 12 freaking series, including a Halo TV show developed by Steven Spielberg and a Halo movie produced by Ridley Scott. Think about that for a second. This is how much we've progressed as a species: Having not one but two top directors involved in a video game franchise would have been unthinkable back in the days of the Super Mario Bros. movie.
And it's not just Sony and Microsoft. You've also got EA pledging to stream games with Comcast, and Oculus Rift talking about their own movies and TV series. That's these guys, if you're not clear:
"Hey, dude, how's that Ron Jeremy documentary? Dude?"
Even if you're not an active gamer, this still sounds like a pretty sweet lineup of new entertainment, right? There's just one problem: Tuning into this shit isn't gonna be as simple as changing the channel. As Xbox One's official website happily reminds us, their new movies and shows are available solely on Microsoft devices. Likewise, you can bet that Sony won't be letting everyone watch their TV shows, and if you're even thinking about pirating this stuff, good luck slapping those two monitors on your face to watch the Oculus Rift shows.
All of this is understandable, of course: These shows aren't being made for fun, they're meant to sell consoles. However, the idea of a dystopian future where every television brand lets you watch different shows just got a little more feasible. So if you're still arguing over whether the PS4 gives out better blow jobs than the Xbox One (or whatever people on message boards fight about), just give it up. You're gonna end up buying every console eventually anyway.
All the Giant, Shitty TV Companies Are Merging into Giant-er, Shittier TV Companies
One of the basic rights of every American is the ability to get pissed off at your TV company and tell them in an indignant voice, "Why, I'm taking my business elsewhere! Good day, sirs!" (Then you pretend they replied something and add "I said good day, sirs!") Guess what? That might be going away soon, too, and the government is just gonna let it happen.
You might be thinking, now that fewer people are relying on cable and more are watching broadband streaming, shouldn't all the juggernaut TV companies just wither away and die? Well, that's part of the problem -- they aren't going without a fight, and in a desperate attempt to stay afloat, they might seriously end up merging into supergiant conglomerate companies that will make S.P.E.C.T.R.E. look like a mom-and-pop operation.
"Just one more thing to decide: Do we worship Baphomet or Cthulhu?"
This isn't just us putting on our tinfoil hats. In February, Comcast and Time Warner Cable started talks of merging into one company, and just a couple of weeks ago, AT&T began plans to buy DirecTV ... which is only a month after AT&T was found trying to get in bed with Dish Network. Yes, at this point, the relationships between big television companies sound like something straight out of one of their daytime soaps. That Warner/Comcast merger ("The WC," probably) would cause 30 million customers to fall under the same umbrella, while the DirecTV/AT&T one ("DirecTV&AT&T") would result in a ball of 26 million subscribers. More people would subscribe to that one company than live in Australia.
Those are scary numbers, but wouldn't the FCC stop something like that from happening? Nope, they've already said they wouldn't do shit about the Warner/Comcast one, because technically, there's little overlap in the areas covered by both companies -- we're sure the fact that the FCC is run by former Comcast lawyers and TV lobbyists is just a funny coincidence. What they're conveniently overlooking is that, even if these companies weren't directly competing with each other, the resulting hypermegacorporations would be big enough to bully everyone they do compete with into having their own way. And if there's no competition in a specific area? They can raise prices and no one can do shit about it, and there's no reason for them to give a crap about improving their service.
"Hi, I've had nothing but static for two w-"
"Want six? Shut up."
Thank God for streaming services, right? Not so fast ...
Ads Are Not Going Away, Just Getting More Intrusive
One of the greatest things about streaming, besides being able to binge on shows until your limbs rot and fall off (because who needs limbs), is getting away from five minutes of commercials for every 10 minutes of show. Unfortunately, the advertisers are catching up, which is why they currently have their top scientists working in shifts to come up with bullshit new ways to sell you crap.
For starters, Hulu is offering something called "In-Stream Purchase Unit" that will let you buy things without even leaving Hulu, just in case your fat ass can't wait another few seconds to order your pizza.
Don't you dare make us hate pizza, you sons of bitches. We will cut you.
OK, admittedly pizzas are pretty awesome, but think about what this means: You'll be watching a show where a character is wearing, say, a cool hat, and you'll see an ad pop up telling you, "Buy this hat. Do it. Buy it now. Come on. WHAT ARE YOU, A PUSSY?" (or something to that effect). In fact, there's already a steady increase in "shoppable shows" employing a new technique where they sell advertisers the right to dress their actors up in whatever clothes the companies want, which are then offered for sale on the official website. So, every time you see your favorite Game of Thrones character wearing a giant Nike logo shirt, you know who to blame.
"Wait until we make them use Trojans for the sex scenes."
And hey, if you're the type who likes to text and play games to avoid the commercials, they've got a solution for you too -- companies will soon be able to play their ads on your TV and phone simultaneously. You can bet your ass they'll start showing the same ads on every screen in your house as soon as they figure out how to do that.
Oh, and speaking of screens, the CEO of DreamWorks has predicted that in the future the price we pay for downloadable content will depend on the size of the device we watch it on. So a large screen TV could cost you 15 bucks per movie, while a smartphone will run you nothing more than $2. That's great ... if you aren't a penny pincher, in which case you'll never watch a full-size movie again without feeling completely, irrevocably guilty.
In short, we don't know about you, but we're gonna start investing in this other new invention we just heard about called "books."
The third part of XJ's epic science-fiction novel is out now on Amazon. The first $0.99 novella can be found here, with Part 2 out here. Or leave a review and get a free copy! Poke him on Twitter and follow him on Facebook.