Economy is still in the crapper. Career-quality jobs are few. Getting paid feels like scraping for what’s left in between the cushions. And yet bills stay the same, or gotten more expensive. A prime example is the cable bill. Everyone has experienced those inexplicable price hikes, or the absurd number behind the dollar sign after the first year of subscribing at least once or five times. It’s no wonder people are migrating to the cheaper alternatives: subscriptions to Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Amazon Instant Video.
Following this latest trend are television production companies like Gaumont International Television (Hemlock Grove), Media Rights Capital (House of Cards, US), and Sony Pictures Television (Zombieland) who premiered their own respective web exclusives either on Netflix or Amazon Instant Video. Hulu as well has been cranking out their own extensive list of programs since last year, with more coming soon. With more original or exclusive web series reportedly on the horizon, just how far will we see this trend go?
First thing’s first. It may be safe to say that Youtube is really the fire starter here with the hundreds web series on channels produced by their partners, most of which have gotten huge recognition across the digital ‘verse. There’s Felicia Day’s The Guild, Battlestar Galactica’s and The Walking Dead’s web series companions, and even Machinima Prime’s own roster of webisodes, just to name a handful. The rising success of web only shows naturally brought intrigue among some of Hollywood’s top billers. Last year, Hulu started releasing a bunch of full-length original programs, but the concept didn’t catch on fire until Netflix and the creators of Arrested Development announced that the show would return for a season on Instant Streaming. Then with the release and subsequent critical success of The House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey, we all pretty much knew this trend wasn’t going to die anytime soon.
So like with our future robot overlords, should we all start bowing down to Internet TV and do away with cable TV all together? Close, but we’re not quite there yet.
Our developing A.I. computers are still looking at cat videos.
Furthermore, there are still a few “problems” with making the full conversion to subscription-based internet TV. As of right now, that is.
- You have to have a high enough bandwidth to get the ideal quality in your television viewing, or to prevent constant buffering and lagging — unless you’re using Youtube. There’s a delay no matter what speed you have.
- Then, if you’re a stickler for precise audio synch, be prepared to get annoyed. This, in my personal experience, happens far and few between. But it happens, and that too is sometimes dependent upon what type of bandwidth you have available.
- Not all of your favorite shows are available for internet viewing. This is the case for AMC, FX, and even some CBS shows. Often times, you have to log on to the network’s site and watch from there. On your computer. Other times, however, your favorite show may not even have the online viewing option. The Big Bang Theory used to be guilty of this farce, only releasing highlights and clips on CBS.com.
- Your TV shows still have expiration dates. So you have a subscription to Hulu Plus. While not all of your favorites will disappear after a certain date, other will. Supernatural, Fringe, Arrow and much more do this and it can be as frustrating as hell. If you’re a regular watcher, this doesn’t pose much of a problem. But if you’re like me and wait for a day where you’re in the right mood, discovering the episode you need to start catching up with has expired will induce a kind of inner rage that burns like a thousand hot suns. You throw up your hands and shout, “Why bother now?!”
- Sometimes you have to wait a year (or more) for your favorite show to show up on Netflix. Anyone watch Archer or Wilfred? Then you know my pain. If you’re really desperate to watch your favorite shows, Apple always offers a la carte viewing or season passes, for a nominal fee of course.
- No special features. You often times just get the theatrical release of a movie. There’s no commentary, no deleted scenes, nada. However, if you’re watching a movie on Netflix streaming, chances are you’re not all that interested in buying the movie anyway.
- No local news. This can be viewed as the most important depending on whom you ask. Time to bring out those rabbit ears, folks.
If you can get past all of the above, you’re looking at a much cheaper monthly entertainment bill. Now you can buy that shiny new Agent Coulson statue from Sideshow Collectibles, complete with big gun and Captain America trading cards attachments. Or, y’know, rent. No doubt we’ll see the continued evolution of internet TV. Maybe even a HBO Go subscription without needing a cable provider (YES PLEASE!)?