TV Exclusivity: Where are We Heading?

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Image taken from NPR: “Television 2015: With 25 Ways To Watch TV, Does The House Always Win?”

There was a time, not very long ago, when watching television was frowned upon.  If you can imagine it, people would even go as far as to lie to their co-workers and say they didn’t own a TV in order to avert the shame of being considered a couch potato.

This mentality seems harsh given today’s social climate, but the point I’m trying to make is that TV as a medium has come a long way.  Now, during what is know as the “Golden Age” television, people are almost proud when they are able to say they’re all caught up with the hottest new shows or when they are able inform others about the meaning of an ambiguous episode.  Even the notorious “bingeing” effect is often recounted with a certain amount of pride and a sense of accomplishment.

TV has become a vital social facilitator.  It is often the only thing we can draw upon when we lack common interests with others.  In many ways, watching TV has become a responsibility for those interested in keeping up with the dialogue that shows have created.  That is why it is equally as necessary for TV to remain accessible to all.

The latest trend of TV shows a form of exclusivity in which we (the paying audience) are forced to subscribe to multiple TV providers in order to stay on top of the shows that everyone’s raving about.  This is both impractical and expensive; but besides being inconvenient, this trend highlights the continued privatization of TV.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that TV networks have always been private, for-profit companies.  However, until recently, all of the most popular shows could be accessed by anyone who had enough money to A) purchase a TV and B) pay their TV bills.  With new platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime (amongst others), new and original content is not accessible the way most shows used to be.  These companies are private to all but those willing to subscribe directly to their products.

While these barriers are not insurmountable, and while this is currently not a very big deal, I can’t help but wonder what this means for the future of TV.  If our televisions themselves are no longer the sole access point to TV shows, will they soon become outdated? And, if they do, will we be forced to pay for each individual network separately in order to receive service?

I for one, hope that the “Golden Age” of television will begin to become less fragmented as time goes on, because without access to shows like “Stranger Things” and “Game of Thrones” to fuel my conversations, my introverted self would be lost, and I know I’m not the only one.

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