Toss the Tele: Options for Non-TV Programming Are On the Rise

Cable TV is a thing of the past. Around the 2000s, watching videos on the Internet became just as easy as flicking on the television. No longer did people have to plan their schedules around what time LOST came on; they could simply open up their laptop or DVR system to find the latest episode. As the Internet transformed into a digital Rogue, absorbing the power of all the technologies around it, the ratings for cable TV plummeted and TV Gods began to panic.

But you already know this. I don’t think I need to explain to you what exactly Netflix is or isn’t, or whether or not it has that popular movie you’ve been dying to see (it doesn’t). I could, however, address another, slightly more important question: What’s the big deal? Why invest 8 dollars a month for a Netflix or Hulu Plus account when there’s a perfectly good television sitting in your living room?

Well, on one hand, television shows make a large portion of their revenue from cable viewers. No money means no pay checks means no workers willing to volunteer precious moments of their day so that you can find out whether or not Dr. Drake Ramoray actually fell down the elevator shaft.

On the other hand, watching a show on the Internet after the episodes have aired lets you pause the screen to stare at that attractive lead character for a longer period of time. Plus, you can ditch that “Oh-My-God-I’m-Missing-My-Show” anxiety that we all experience at least once in our lives. With so many alternative programming options, you might as well throw your regular TV set in the trash. (Some people do, and they save a heck of a lot of money doing it.)

But perhaps the biggest reason to focus your attention on non-TV programming are the TV shows that are offered. The obvious choice is House of Cards, Netflix’s original political series starring Kevin Spacey, which guarantees its awesomeness. But there are other, less advertised options that really deserve to get more attention. The Confession starring Jack Bauer *cough* sorry, Kiefer Sutherland follows a hitman who spends the entire show revealing to a priest his most gruesome crimes. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn about the character’s past as well as how awful it would be to be that priest, collecting all those secrets like that.

That’s one point to Netflix and one for Hulu. Write that down. We throw the ball back into Netflix’s court with its other original show, Orange Is the New BlackMade by the creator of Weeds, the series follows the life of Piper Chapman, a fairly well-off, white New Yorker who is forced to serve a 15-month sentence in a federal jail. Already a little dysfunctional to begin with, Chapman must learn to adapt to prison culture to the best of her ability.

The big selling point for some of these online series is their specialization. East Los High (a Hulu show), for example, has a cast composed entirely of Latinos. The show itself promises to reveal the truth about Latino culture and dispel the negative stereotypes that other series have perpetuated up til this point (i.e. how maids and janitors are always portrayed as Latino).

TV is all well and good but the future of entertainment may very well lie in online streaming companies. At least, I think so, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe non-streaming options won’t consume the entertainment world. After all, when television first wriggled its way into our lives, people were convinced they would cause the death of movie theaters. Why would you pay handfuls of money to watch a movie when there were plenty of free specials playing on your television for free? And yet, here we are, cashing in hundreds of dollars every year to watch superheroes fight each other on the big screen.

I love television. Someday, I might even want to work in television (my initials have already given me an advantage), but times are a’changin. As Internet streaming services become more popular and Internet-only series begin driving audiences towards the computer screen,  it’s becoming less and less likely that TV shows will remain exclusively on cable channels. We might as well embrace the other options while we can and try to balance our love for TV between regular television and online options. Start with the new Arrested Development season and the Internet will take it from there.

Image via Shutterstock

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