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Life in the Streaming Age
It’s been almost an entire century since television began broadcasting all the way back in 1928. In that time, the way it works has undergone all sorts of changes, but it’s remained a staple for modern households all the while. In our current day and age, TVs are used for much more than just linear broadcasts. Whether it be playing video games, putting an exercise tape to good use, watching a movie you rented, or casting an online video onto your TV, there are endless ways of getting your money’s worth out of that big, expensive black rectangle you keep in your house. I bring all this up because it’s something to consider when wondering what the future of television watching could hold.
It’s absolutely no secret that streaming services have been on the rise over the past several years. If you have even a passing interest in movies or television, it’s virtually impossible not to know what Netflix is…or HBO Max, or Hulu, or any other service where you can watch movies and shows for a monthly fee. The fact that many of the big-name shows from the past few years aren’t ones that premiered on television, but rather streaming services is a testament to how popular they are. This has led many to feel as if linear television is slowly on its way out, and if I’m being perfectly honest, an assumption like this is perfectly justified.
It certainly doesn’t help that a CBS-run poll from last year determined that from 2016 to 2021, the number of people who watched television via cable subscription dropped from 63 to 45 percent, while the amount who used streaming services rose from 20 to 37 percent. The ability to legally watch whatever you want right on the spot is simply too tempting for a lot of people. However, does this really mean that linear television’s days are limited? Years from now, will streaming really be our only option to get our TV fix? As previously stated, television is such a large part of home entertainment that such a future seems unthinkable. Even if we use the TV in a myriad of ways, it would feel wrong to stop using it in the way it was originally intended to be used…right?
TV – Ups and Downs
Before speculating any further about the future of television, I’d like to go over the pros and cons of both linear television and streaming. Let’s start with the positives: There are things linear television does that simply can’t be done with streaming services. First off, two big things people watch TV for are news and sports. Due to their live nature, these two things wouldn’t really work anywhere other than television. Another aspect is networks themselves. Networks are capable of giving themselves unique personalities through not only the specific types of content that they air, but also through unique bumpers, blocks and promos. As someone who watched a lot of Cartoon Network as a kid, I can tell you that things like the Toonami block and the “City-era” bumpers could never be replicated through streaming services.
However, streaming services certainly have their own advantages over television as well. I already brought up one of the biggest advantages of streaming, that being the sheer amount of content readily available to watch at any moment. Another positive is that you don’t have to worry about the kind of censorship usually seen on cable television. And finally, while there are ad breaks on certain streaming services (depending on what ad plan you use for some of them), they’re generally easier to deal with, often only being one to two minutes long.
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Speaking of ad breaks, one major drawback to linear television is the amount of time spent on commercials. While advertising is an important business, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t find the constant commercial interruptions of movies and shows on cable to be at least somewhat annoying. There’s also the aforementioned censorship, which can hinder the enjoyment of anyone who wants to see a film as it was meant to be seen. Finally, with things like work and school, it can be hard to catch certain shows or movies when they’re live, and oftentimes a DVR is needed in order to keep up with a show you might be into, or to catch that movie you’ve been wanting to see. The world of streaming unfortunately isn’t without its faults, either. With so many services out now, many might not be willing to subscribe to all of them, even if multiple services have one or more shows they want to see. On top of all that, with movies constantly coming and going from different streaming services, it can be difficult keeping track of them all.
Life in Harmony
Now having looked at the pros and cons of both streaming and television, can it still be assumed that streaming has the upper hand? Is it safe to say that TV has become the inferior way of entertaining the masses? Well, given the fact that TV networks are still producing content, chances are it isn’t as dead as some people claim it is. Considering how TVs in this day and age are multi-purpose and are used for far more than just turning on watching, there’s a reason why just about every household has one. It’s unlikely that TV networks will go away completely, as it would be strange to live in a future where simply watching television wouldn’t be an option.
TV networks have also been finding ways to work alongside streaming services, such is the case with Hulu. Hulu not only has a live TV plan, but streams the shows on the networks that it’s partnered with, such as FX, with new episodes added after they premiere on television. That way, if you forgot to DVR that new show that looked interesting, you can catch up on Hulu. Other services associated with channels have also made shows available for streaming shortly after their television premieres. Disney+ released the first five episodes of ‘The Ghost and Molly McGee’ onto their service mere days after it premiered on the Disney Channel, a few such episodes not even having aired yet. HBO Max made the recent Adult Swim hit ‘Smiling Friends’ available to stream a mere month after the show premiered. Peacock made the ‘Child’s Play’ series available to stream a single day after the first season ended.
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So, is linear television dying out? Or is it here to stay? Only the future will tell us for sure, but as it stands, I don’t see it going away anytime soon, even if streaming is the more popular way to watch things. Imagine how weird it would be if we simply weren’t able to relax after a long day’s work and see what was on for the night (other than news or sports), or if you were a parent who couldn’t turn on Nick Jr. or PBS Kids for their little ones to watch. There’s a good chance that television will always be around in some way, shape, or form, but who knows? Maybe we’ll see some new, unpredictable innovation that will further bridge the gaps between TV and streaming. The world of entertainment is constantly changing, and it can be hard to guess what it’ll bring next. But no matter your stance on the issue, the important thing is to enjoy and support whichever services you prefer.
By Austin Oguri
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I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV. media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.”
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Austin Oguri is a screenwriter and has deep appreciation for the art of film in general, he aims to offer unique perspectives through his film reviews and feature articles. He also has a soft spot for lesser-known works, and enjoys spotlighting them whenever he can. Austin has always found it necessary for people to encourage and bring out the best in each other, and as a writer at The Hollywood Insider, he can combine that ideology with his ability to think outside the box and truly express his love for the arts in the best ways possible.