The television model has always been seen as a symbol for unity. Almost every family has a time in the day or even week where they all gather in front of the TV to view a certain show. While this is true, this “tradition” has almost become outdated and that’s because of the rise of the internet and the introduction of the streaming model. The way that we view television as a whole has really changed as a result of streaming models like Netflix.
Before the streaming service came into play, people would watch their favorite shows on a weekly basis, watching one episode one week at a time. People would have to tune in at a certain time to watch it which brought a very communal feeling to the television model. With services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime the communal feeling has changed to fit today’s consumers “on demand” attitudes. “Binge watching” has become a popular way in which tv consumers view their favorite media. Younger viewers are more likely to adopt this new way of viewing content with about 61% of 18-24 year olds having streaming subscriptions. They watch multiple episodes in one sitting, sometimes even watching an entire season in one day. Viewers are now able to control when they want to watch their show. This might seem like a revolutionary idea but the DVR was actually the first device that allowed tv consumers to be put off the clock and on their own schedule. The difference with streaming services is that this allows them to watch shows anytime, anywhere, and in any device that they would prefer. While television doesn’t really have that same communal feeling, it still holds on to a small part of it when friends gather to discuss the newest season of Orange Is the New Black.
This leads to discuss the new way in which tv content is produced. Not only do streaming services provide subscribers with new and old shows, they also provide them with original exclusive series, such as Netflix’s OITNB and House of Cards, and Amazon’s Transparent. Shows like these have become increasingly popular in the past years that they have gained recognition from the Academy and have gone to be nominated and win awards. In 2013, Netflix made history by being the first non-TV network to win and Emmy award.
So what does this mean for cable?
In 2013, nearly 5 million people subscribed to sites like Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services. This resulted in some people cutting the cord with their tv subscription because if you have one you don’t really need the other. About 463,000 people ended their cable subscription this past year and as their numbers decline, streaming subscribers keep increasing, with Netflix alone attracting more than 69 million subscribers this year. This number is expected to keep rising as people switch over to a cheaper alternative to watching television. There are even some networks that offer their cable subscribers the option to stream but networks like HBO and CBS now allow their subscribers to stream without having to subscribe to cable first.
Does this mean that cable is doomed to be extinct? Not particularly. While the tv model has potential to become old media, many viewers don’t let go of cable because they don’t want to wait a year to see their favorite show online. Cable still allows people to watch sports live, awards shows, live musicals, and recently an old model that networks have re-adopted to gain more viewers, the event miniseries. What might change eventually is our collective media consumption habits. When the newer generations replace baby boomers in the majority of tv consumers, this might pressure network and cable companies to offer a cheaper viewing alternative the same way that the internet pressured the music industry to make music easier to access.
Based on today’s culture, it doesn’t seem like television is dying anytime soon but it looks like we are headed in a direction where the internet is becoming a better option for tv viewers.