Tom Tomorrow crystalizes my vague thoughts on television:
Basically, the networks are training me not to watch their programs until after they’ve been cancelled and released on DVD. I’m no MBA, but it seems like a short-sighted business strategy to me. I mean, consider the case of Firefly. The Fox network was sitting on what, in retrospect, could clearly have been the next major sci-fi franchise, with years of syndication and spinoffs and action figures and all the rest. But someone thought it was a better idea to kill the show in its infancy, and what we’re left with is a DVD set of some of the finest episodic television ever produced, a cliche-ridden, so-so movie, and a lingering sense of promise unfulfilled.
I really don’t like teevee anymore. Even shows which I enjoy, I don’t like to watch first-run, because I’m anti-authoritarian and don’t like networks determining when I should watch something. Case in point, Monk on USA. I enjoy the show, but I do not appreciate in order to see a new episode, I have to carve out an hour on Friday night.
Yeah, yeah. TiVo. Whatever. Another monthly fee; another $300 to get the damned thing in the first place. All I know is it’s over for television networks in the same way it was over for record store chains in the late 90s. At some point before MP3, there was no compelling reason to buy CDs from record stores. They charged too much. There was nothing compelling about the physical space or the snotty teens they hired at minimum wage to help you. Amazon and CDNow charged a couple of bucks less and had a huge catalog. Most people didn’t know it, but stores that, uh, towered over the suburban landscape were dinosaurs waiting for the dust to settle. Television feels like that now. Networks broadcast a tremendous amount of filler and crap, and it’s work to seek out the 1% that’s actually watchable. I go online and find what I want almost instantly.
Instead of working for the viewer, they’re working for the shareholder, and so we get a writers’ strike that was never necessary. The networks and producers are so worried about saving a few cents per product, they let their shows rot on the vine.
Honestly, good riddance. In five years, we’ll see what replaces the network. I don’t think its out there yet. YouTube, iTunes, OnDemand. All close, but the way these things make money, or don’t make money, seems like outdated-thinking. What ever it is, if it destroys the way we get our news and entertainment, I’ll be all for it.