In recent years Pay-TV has completely taken over television. Streaming/subscription services such as HBO, Showtime, Netflix, and Hulu, among others, have seen a rise in viewership. More and more people are leaving cable for streaming based Pay-TV.
Pay-TV offers flexibility. You can sign-up or cancel your subscription month-to-month. Viewers have the choice of when to watch their shows. You can stream all episodes in a one-day binge, or space it out across months.
Pay-TV is auteur driven and this makes it so that there is a strive towards not only making good television, but making television that can be considered art. On services like HBO, shows are created by folks driven by the art of storytelling. This makes all the difference.
When HBO first came out, it changed how we watch television and how television is made. It frontiered a revolution in television.
Pay-TV costs less. A person can have HBO, Netflix, and Hulu subscriptions and pay around $25 per month. In fact, if you share accounts with another person, it could be half of that. This is far more affordable than cable TV and for quality programming, too.
For college students and those just now moving out on their own, the budget friendliness of Pay-TV is very attractive. Not having to own a TV to access it, is another one. Pay-TV is portable. I can watch HBO on my phone, or TV, or laptop, or really any monitor with internet capabilities. In other words, I can take HBO (or Netflix or Hulu, etc.) anywhere I go.
On top of all of that, Pay-TV providers can put out whatever content they choose. There are fewer rules and regulations when it comes to profanity and nudity. This can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the viewer. HBO, specifically, is able to take risks with the content they put out. This is also both an advantage and a disadvantage. Sometimes, they really hit the mark – like with Westworld(HBO), Black Mirror(Netflix), or Good Girls Revolt(Amazon) – or completely miss the target.
With that all said, should quality television be a paid for service? A part of me wants to say no. Quality television should not be reserved for only those who can afford it. It shouldn’t be something that only affluent people have access to. At the same time, if television is art, then that art needs to be valued. The creatives who work behind the scenes need to be acknowledged for their work, both with awards and a paycheck. So, yes quality television should be paid for, but it should also be affordable enough for the general public to enjoy.
For me, quality television is television that is entertaining and thoughtful. When I watch a TV show, I want to see a story. I want to feel what it means to be human. I like to see the human experience and human condition at its very core, in front of my eyes, with beautiful cinematography. In most cases, Pay-TV is much better at doing this for the reasons stated above. A subscription based service allows shows to be made somewhat differently, with different goals in mind. HBO and Netflix can take risks or go out on a limb to try something new. Their goal is to make the next big hit, the next cultural phenomena. In other words, everyone in Pay-TV wants to make the next “Game of Thrones.”
“At some point in the past decade, cultural critics, including those in the employ of the venerable New York Times, have grown comfortable with the notion that a television series may be judged, first and foremost, as a work of art.” (Anderson)
When art becomes the motivation, innovation and creativity thrive. Television, as an art form, advances and progresses. The human imagination and capabilities venture into new worlds. This is exciting.
Anderson, Christopher. “Producing an Aristocracy of Culture in American Culture.” The Essential HBO Reader. (2008). Web.