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Well folks, it is official. Streaming has destroyed cable and has become the very thing it spent years mocking. In fact, it is now at the point where we are now living in an age of transition. As cable fades, its memory lives on in the form of the new, rebranded versions of the streaming services we have come to love.

There are many changes coming to streaming, none of them great for consumers, and all fantastic for business. Go figure. So let’s take a moment to mourn the loss of a great idea and understand the coming storm.

The Journey So Far

Options. That was a big word for a long time. Television started out with only three, and those were highly regulated for content but were free. The shows were first funded by one sponsor and then began airing commercials that broke the shows into 5-10 minute increments. By 1989, cable was able to provide us with hundreds of channels of mildly unregulated content for a fee. So now we were paying for a service while also being shown commercials on top of that. But we were okay because we had plenty of options.

During this time, the VHS rental market was booming and only got bigger when DVDs began hitting the market. Stores like Blockbuster were taking the country by storm. They offered multi-day rentals of new and old movies. However, these were curated collections based on tastes and store size. Also, if someone else had the movie you wanted, you had to wait to see it.

Then, in 1998, Netflix arrived on the scene. Now, you could pay a nominal fee and have DVDs sent to your home. Depending on the amount you paid, you could get up to ten movies at a time. And, with your wishlist, the second you sent one back, the next one showed up. And forget about late fees because you could keep the movie for as long as you wanted. Nobody was waiting for it. Plus, it was a DVD so say goodbye to that pesky VHS rewinding fee. It offered an increasing library of options and proved to be the giant killer that took down Blockbuster. Suddenly people were using Netflix almost exclusively, although some people were still purchasing physical DVDs for their own collections.

Enter Streaming

In 2007, Netflix became a streaming service. This meant that their library of options increased because they no longer needed to send out DVDs. It was all digital. And, it cost the same as their DVD service. No commercials anymore! Plus, they were starting to add original TV shows that nobody had to wait for. The entire season showed up all at once. Now we had the term “binging” and it was considered a badge of honor to have watched all of Tiger King in one weekend (or even in one day).

Other streamers started showing up. Amazon Prime, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu. They were all starting to show their own content even as they bought up as many properties as possible. Sure, prices were going up a bit, but that’s what happens with competition. Everyone understood that. But with so many great movies and TV shows spread out over so many services, people were starting to pay a lot more than they’d thought they would just to get the same amount of content.

Soon, a new phenomenon arrived: non-binging. This meant that services like Netflix realized they could see bumps in views if they released marquee shows on a weekly basis. So now, people were paying more while also having to wait for their next episode. Something that went against some of the fundamental reasons they began loving the Netflix model in the first place.

Amazon was also doing something a bit different. They were offering a variety of shows, but they were rentable. So now, if you did not have a streaming service that had the movie or shows for free, you were forced to pay even more to rent the movie or TV show and, for a limited amount of time.

Then, HBO Max was turned into Max, raised their prices, and dumped a ton of content. So people were now paying more for less. But their content was interesting and original so people continued to pay.

The last straw, or the one people thought would be the last straw, was Disney+ introducing a tiered system. This meant that if you paid the lowest amount, you could still watch, but you were going to watch with commercials. The more you paid, the less commercials you would see.

Amazon Prime has now stated that they will begin implementing commercials as well. No word yet if this will be a tiered system or if they will be implementing this across the board. We are already seeing this with Paramount+ where viewers must watch a bevy of commercials before getting to their movies.

Where We Stand

And so here we are. Back where we began. What we are now left with is the death of cable TV and the rise of what will now be digital cable. Streaming services are now the only game in town and they are desperate for income. Enter advertisers and extremely branded content.

Also, be sure that when the writer’s strike is over, the studios will claim poverty and losses and begin charging even more for their services. This will lead to most people only being able to pay for the lowest tiers and therefore seeing just as many commercials as they did on cable TV.

It should also be noted that we are likely to see words like “monopoly” and “price fixing” within the next 5-10 years. These streamers know what they have and they know how much we want it. This is the same thing that happened when the internet became the only way to stay connected. When there is a desperate need, companies will find ways of bleeding customers.

Industry Concerns

That being said, the industry must consider what will happen next. At what point does the public, who are making far less money and having a hard time even paying their own bills, finally start unsubscribing? Not to mention the continued use of torrenting movies and TV for free along with the rise of VPNs to aid this process.

When regulations are put into place, people will find ways around it. People stole cable and people are quite happy to steal movies and TV. But the question is always whether people would do this if prices were fair. Again, streamers claim poverty and say they cannot afford to pay writers, directors, and visual effects artists for their work, but it is just another excuse. Entertainment is big business and big business now runs entertainment.

The Wild West of digital streaming is over. The buffalo are dead, the trains are spewing smoke, and the pristine prairies are paved over and forgotten. Welcome to the endlessly repetitive line of toll roads. if you can’t pay, don’t bother trying to see all the beauty the country has to offer. The scenic overlook has a fence and a guard. The freedom of pristine beauty is now only available when you purchase the coffee table book.

Thank you for reading. Please stick around for a message from our sponsors.


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