Today’s television landscape is more diverse than ever. Many critics believe that we are in a new golden age of television, enjoying high-quality programming in a competitive environment. However, how people consume entertainment programming have changed dramatically over the past few decades. The television audience is fractured between cable, broadcast, premium, and streaming services. Michael Luisi, an experienced producer, and studio executive, who has worked at The Walt Disney Company and WWE Studios, explains the changing landscape of television and how it fits into the overall world of entertainment.
The Shifting World of Television
Television first became popular in the United States in the 1950s. By 1960, ninety percent of American households owned a TV. There were three broadcast networks in most of the United States in the 1950s, joined by PBS in the 1960s. Much of the typical pop culture of the era focused on shows created by broadcast television networks.
Cable began to make its presence known in the 1980s, reaching more American households than ever before. Premium cable networks like HBO and Cinemax provided a way for people to watch movies at home. As the number of cable channels rose, the fragmentation of the television audience began, but the ‘lion’s share of attention was still given to broadcast television shows.
The segmentation of the television audience continued through the 1990s and early 2000s. Television audiences split across gender and age, with older viewers concentrating on news channels while younger viewers consumed entertainment programming.
The Rise of Streaming Services
During the 2000s, Netflix began as a DVD by mail service. Consumers became accustomed to the ease of ordering rental DVDs online. Netflix began to compete with broadcast and cable television, but it’s streaming offering made a tectonic shift in the television landscape.
With its expanding library, Netflix was able to capture the attention of viewers of all ages.
As the decade progressed, Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu all began to produce their exclusive series in direct competition with broadcast and cable networks. It caused cable and broadcast networks to sit up and take notice. The increased amount of competition created more quality shows on both sides, and viewers benefited.
Another streaming player who mostly captures the attention of younger viewers is YouTube. YouTube provides a mix of user-created and corporate content. Many young people produce their shows, and the “YouTuber” has become an essential part of the television landscape through their influence on mainstream programming.
Video streaming services have brought about the advent of the “cord-cutter,” or a household which eliminates cable TV in favor of streaming services. Customers drop cable to save some of the bills associated with it. This development was especially threatening to cable networks like HBO.
Future Developments in Streaming
Inspired by the success of Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, many television and movie studios have announced plans for their streaming network. These networks will take popular programs from the other streaming services, saving their revenue for their studios. Disney will launch Disney+ in the coming year, and there will also be an HBO Max streaming service launched by Time Warner. HBO Max will feature HBO and Warner ‘Brothers’ content, including Friends, one of the most-streamed series of all time.
The continued fragmentation of the streaming market points toward new trends in the world of television. Where most people have chosen one or two of the major streaming networks, they will find that their favorite shows are spread across a variety of services. While subscribing to one or more of these new services may be affordable in the short term, their subscription prices are likely to grow over the next several years.
Television Trends are Changing
Michael Luisi predicts that streaming services will grow further while broadcast and cable networks continue to decline. Streaming is likely to produce higher revenue and has higher subscriber numbers than cable as the years go by. Consumers will have numerous choices when it comes to accessing their favorite programs and movies, but the cost of having several streaming services will add up. In the years to come, it is worth monitoring the state of broadcast and cable television versus streaming.