(This is the second in a 2-part series. Part 1 was posted posted yesterday. Read it here.)
It’s the common wisdom that we are entering a Golden Age of Television, that the best quality filmmaking is now happening on the small screen more than the large. The most talented moviemakers are flocking to TV in droves. Steven Soderbergh gave a speech last year talking about the current crisis-state of the movie industry, and why he’s only going working in the TV sphere going forward. (Or so I have read; I haven’t actually had a chance to listen to the speech myself, yet.)
It’s worth noting that even in the face of all these feature filmmakers jumping ship, we have just had one of the greatest years in recent memory for outstanding quality films, and the spectacle that is Gravity has reminded us that the small screen still cannot compete with the scale of possibility that the big screen affords us.
But it’s true. There are far more options for excellent quality on TV than ever before. (There’s far more everything on TV than ever before.) Most of the best shows are on cable channels. So it would seem that for any lover of quality filmmaking, having cable TV would be a must. But I would consider myself part of that demographic, and I would argue the opposite.
The biggest problem with cable is that the decades old channel-package model just doesn’t make sense anymore. The multiple streaming options I listed yesterday, and countless others, let you pick and choose what you want and when you want it for a fraction of the cost. Cable companies and their channels need to go back to the drawing board to compete. They could start by letting people pick and choose channels a la carte. It would be absolutely the least they could do. They could even work that into the basic structure of their old package model.
But remember that one streaming service I use? The one for an unnamed premium channel that requires a cable subscription to use? That I can only use by borrowing a friend’s password? Well, despite the excellent quality of those shows, if I didn’t have those awesome friends, it still wouldn’t be worth it to pay for cable. Even if I could pick and choose my channels, I would just wait for the DVDs. Unless I could get that channel and only that channel, just for the use of their streaming service, I would be wasting my money.
To really meet the needs of the modern public, the channels need to move away from the idea of a schedule. Life doesn’t fit into perfect 30 minute blocks that begin and end at the same time. People don’t want to be tied to that. When TiVo and similar devices first came out, people first had the option of recording a show and then watching it whenever they wanted. Ever since, cable companies have offered renting similar recording devices with your cable box. But that’s just a fix to a woefully out-of-date structure. They need new ideas.
You know who has new ideas? Netflix. They have been leading the charge against the old guard. They were the first major streaming option for TV shows, and recently the first to create original programming exclusive to a streaming service. I’m not saying they’re perfect by any stretch, but they’re paying attention to what their customers want. Now Hulu and others are following suit. This is where cable companies need to look if they don’t want to get left in the dust.
The cable companies are getting old. They are run by the most deeply entrenched corporate capitalists. But suddenly their precious free-market is scaring them. People are beginning to move away from what they’re offering. Well? Let’s let that free-market do its thing. Cancel your cable. Support the companies who are actually giving you what you want, the way you want it. Maybe they’ll get the message. Maybe they’ll change. And maybe we’ll come back if they do.
I hope so, because there really are some great shows to be seen.