Why I Wouldn’t Say Streaming is Turning into Cable
I’ve seen more than a few people discuss their belief that streaming is turning into the cable TV of yesterday. The belief is because what was once a few services Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video has grown into several streaming services, it basically brings you back into spending a lot of money to watch all the shows. And I completely disagree.
First lets discuss availability. When you shop for pay TV, you most likely have one or, if you’re lucky, two options in town for cable TV. If the cable provider doesn’t make you happy, you have the two satellite providers. I’d argue that most people only have one cable service to choose from, so that’s realistically three choices. Today you have a lot more options in places to watch. You may find that all you need is Netflix, and if you need more content, there’s a whole list of others to choose from.
Second, there are no contracts in streaming. In my area, Spectrum doesn’t require you to sign a contract, but I would assume that is insanely rare, as Dish and DirecTV definitely require a multi-year contract. With streaming, you pay by the month, and you are in full control in whether or not you choose to continue your subscription.
Third, you only pay for what you want. With pay TV, it’s all or nothing. Sure, you can choose between the basic package and adding another, but there’s a near 100% guarantee you will have channels you will never intentionally watch. With streaming, you choose the service with the content that you want. Of course, a service like Netflix isn’t going to have everything that appeals to me, but I can cancel it at any time I feel I don’t need it. This is probably the point people miss the most: you don’t have to have all streaming services active all the time. For example, I barely watch HBO Max, but I’ll watch a lot more of it when Conan O’Brien’s new show premieres on the platform. In the meantime, I can just cancel the subscription, and then pick it back up if there’s something I want to watch or if that show is on.
Fourth, you choose which smart device works for you. With pay TV, you either have to use the company’s awful cable box, hope they have an app to watch TV on, or jump through a bunch of arbitrary hoops to get a third-party box like a TiVo working. With streaming, you can watch on your phone, tablet, or computer, or a built-in smart TV, or a smart box like Fire TV Stick, Roku, Chromecast, or Apple TV. They all have their strengths and ecosystems they fit within, but for the most part, there aren’t services exclusive to any one platform. Even Roku which has been spending a lot of money on their free ad-supported service The Roku Channel is available on devices other than Roku.
And fifth: the content is just better on streaming in higher quantities. Cable spent much of the 2000s and 2010s with reality garbage and cheap talk shows. Yes, there were a few channels that produced big shows like on AMC and FX, but Netflix and HBO spent lots of money on high quality scripted shows and movies, and have a pretty deep library of high quality content to entice you into paying for the service.
It’s easy to see with rising prices and so many services that add up to a high total, it may seem like things are going back to the days of cable, but with no contracts, the freedom to drop and use whatever platform makes you happy, it doesn’t have to cost all that much to stream, and at the end of the day, you can drop all services, and have plenty to watch with a TV antenna and free services.