Television is the most popular form of streaming media in existence today. You turn on your TV and you receive a broadcast of a program, either live or prerecorded. These programs run on networks (CBS, ABC, etc) that fund these shows, which are in turn funded by ventures like advertising (correct me if I’m wrong). Back in the day, this was a straightforward arrangement that worked quite well. People tuned in and watched their shows, and an hour was enjoyably spent in front of the television.
But this era brought with it some extra baggage, like TV scanners, TIVO, and cable boxes. Is it me, or does all that seem dumb? When I pay my cable bill, I expect to receive content that I can watch as I please. My payment should entitle me to view a show whenever I want. And if I happen to forget to set up a recording for the latest episode of a show, I shouldn’t have to wait a week to catch it. And furthermore, I shouldn’t have to wait an entire season for reruns of older episodes that I might have missed.
Enter: Hulu. A nifty service that allows the viewing of selected TV shows online, whenever you want. This is a fantastic step forward for personal entertainment. Problem is, they don’t always carry an entire season’s worth of shows. Last I heard, they cut you off after the latest 5 episodes. To access the “whole archive,” you’re going to need a subscription. Seems fair enough to me. Problem is: why haven’t entire TV networks adopted this model?
We live in a world where information flows freely in this magical realm we call the Internet. It can distribute anything; news, music, and videos of cats. As many music artists have discovered, you no longer need a record label to help you distribute thousands of CD’s. You can just sell your music on iTunes. As the languishing print industry has discovered, you no longer need giant printing companies just to have your works read. You can just post content online. We live in a world where we television networks shouldn’t need Comcast, or Cablevision to broadcast shows to the millions of cable jacks installed in the millions of households nationwide. They already have a window into households: The Internet.
Digital content is meant to improve the way we access media. We shouldn’t have to work around a schedule to watch a TV show. It should be ever-present. It should be available to us, when we want it. And we are entitled to it, we already pay for cable TV… most of us anyway. So why isn’t the content there? Well, it actually is. It’s called piracy, and it’s awesome. It is whatever you want, whenever you want it.
Why can’t TV networks get in on a piece of the action? Because they’re not providing the consumers what they want. They aren’t making their goods readily available. They don’t realize that content outlets like Hulu provide a service that people take for granted, as a right. To have it their way. People would pay for it. But right now, there’s a middle man: your TV service provider. And it only works one way: real-time broadcast. Snooze, you lose. Good day, sir.
The Internet provides countless ways to transmit information. But it is rarely utilized in the best ways possible. People are still locked down in obsolete ways because evolving takes effort. Unfortunately for me, it leaves me with an unfortunate choice: Do I illegally download the NCIS season finale, or wait a week for CBS to post it online? The way I see it, I knew it was being aired, but I wasn’t able to set up my VCR in time. By any account, I am entitled to view it right this instant. I’m punished for following the rules, and breaking the law for viewing something I would have seen anyway.
Television needs to modernize. [End Rant]