In 2007, Netflix turned its attention to streaming services rather than mail-order DVDs. It was a brilliant business model as it changed the lives of those who frequently miss their favorite TV shows, but it unknowingly changed the course of the television industry. Slowly but surely, Hulu came onto the scene, as did HBO NOW and FOX NOW. However, Netflix was merely just a medium for the majority of the world’s favorite TV shows.
However, as more streaming services slowly began to pop up, content began to be removed from Netflix. For example, HBO’s “The Sopranos” was available to stream on Netflix years ago, but has since been relocated to HBO NOW. While the departure of numerous shows continued, it plateaued at a slight annoyance. HBO now had a spot to put their hit off-air shows, and consumers were happy to get rid of their looming DVD collections. During this time, Netflix merely acted as a TV program purgatory, offering a home for the content that had nowhere to be streamed from. This was all changed when Netflix produced its first original piece “House of Cards” in 2013. This caused panic among television companies, as Netflix made the first move in the war of streaming services.
Fast forward to 2020, and consumers can now choose from HBO NOW, FOX NOW, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Youtube’s service, Apple TV, and Disney+. These same consumers are awaiting the release of NBC’s streaming service Peacock, launching this summer, among others. Now consumers are given a myriad of choices, and a fear of missing out on the content they haven’t paid for. We are now all in “horror” that we may miss developments on things like Disney+’s “The Mandalorian,” Netflix’s “You” and Hulu’s “Wutang: An American Saga.” While all of these shows are a few exceptions that are deserving of high praise, the average consumer should be concerned about the future of quality television.
Jonah Weiner wrote an article for NYT magazine, discussing the conversation between HBO’s former CEO, Richard Plepler, and the current CEO of WarnerMedia, John Stankey, during the acquisition of the latter company by the former. Stankey explained to Plepler that the content on HBO had to be more instantaneous, and that it had to be comparable to the media consumed by people on their cellphones. Weiner went on to discuss this concept with Nick Weidenfeld, the current president of programming for Viceland. Weidenfeld said that TV is no longer about making compelling artistic programs, but about competing with the innumerable makeup tutorials and gaming videos that are so easily accessible.
Because of this, you end up with what Wiedenfeld called the “low-cost, high-margin stuff.” The discussion of morality we were given in “The Sopranos” and the display of hubris and evil we saw in “Breaking Bad” is ultimately and unfortunately no match for makeover reality shows, “Minecraft” play-throughs, and mindless game shows. As this battle for the average attention span rages on, the main casualties are not only our wallets and time, but the overall quality of television.