Opinion

Published on March 24th, 2017 | by Eliza Bernstein

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Streaming vs Cable Television

In terms of our preferred method of television and movie watching, we’re currently at a crossroads. Even though it seems as if streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are becoming the future of media consumption and are covering some really important and controversial topics, such as gender identity and social norms, cable television has some perks that simply cannot be denied.

First of all, cable and network are simply just way more accessible. More people have cable television than Netflix so the shows and movies that are shown there reach a greater audience. According to The Huffington Post, a search conducted by the Leichtman Research Group revealed that there are 95.2 million people in the U.S. who subscribe to the top 13 pay-TV providers. Additionally, it is a fact that most of the highest rated television shows have been broadcasted on cable television, not streaming services. Many shows that originally aired on cable television have now been put on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu so they can reach a broader audience but shows that originate on the aforementioned streaming services never make it to cable television. This greatly limits their viewership and restricts their audience to only those who have the resources to pay for streaming services.

Although cable television costs more per month than streaming services, around $99 compared to around $10, most people purchase a streaming service in addition to cable television which adds up to a cumulative cost of around $109. Lower income Americans who can’t afford cable, nonetheless a streaming service, can watch some of the content shown on cable television because the main network channels like ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox put their shows on cable and broadcast them via radio waves. Movies and television are a prominent part of American culture and cable television enables those who are less wealthy to have access to that while streaming services limit this accessibility to culture only to those who are able to pay for it. Also wifi is necessary to use streaming services like Netflix and Hulu and when that is not available, these services are rendered useless. Cable television on the other hand can be enjoyed without high-speed internet of any kind, an additional factor that makes it more accessible, especially to lower income Americans.

Accessibility is one of the main benefits of cable television but there are many other small perks as well. Shows that originate on cable television follow a more standard 22-episode-per-season structure which is often more satisfying for a viewer and enables the show to really flesh out a complex, well thought out and engaging story arch. And although shows that are produced from streaming services might have longer episodes they frequently have erratic season lengths and often just provide the viewer with a measly 10 episodes per season which is hardly enough time to really develop character dynamics or a gripping plot line.

Additionally, cable television has a much greater variety of shows than streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Cable television had channel after channel, each providing the viewer with a specific type of show like gritty sitcoms, suspenseful dramas or mesmerizing reality shows. Streaming services might offer a few shows in each of these categories but their selection pales in comparison. A fundamental pillar of American culture, sports games, is rarely found in the supposedly unlimited television assortment that streaming services promise to their viewers. And even if many sports games were included in their array, there might not be much appeal to viewers because watching a game live is such a unique experience that really doesn’t have a comparable streaming counterpart. One of the most important duties of television, delivering news, has been completely eradicated by streaming services as they infrequently have any news programs in their collection of shows.

Furthermore, for people who like to have a nice, organized daily routine, cable television makes it incredibly easy to include a half hour of your favorite show into your schedule. Also there is something fun about having something to look forward to for the whole day and then knowing while you’re watching a show that people all over the world are watching it too. In addition to this, only being able to watch a show once a week can make the actual viewing of it way more exciting and entertaining as opposed to the desensitization that can accompany being able to watch hours of any show on streaming services. This neatly scheduled television viewing time also prevents the addictive, time-sucking monstrosity that is binge-watching. According to a study conducted by Harris International, nearly 1,500 American adults who stream TV programs at least once a week said that they binge-watched with regularity. But this new national pastime has detrimental effects on the viewer’s mental health. A recent study by Texas A&M University showed that binge-watching is connected to feelings of loneliness and depression and may even be an addictive behavior. The reliable structure of cable television enables you to be productive with your viewing and only watch what you really want to watch, not just what is available to you.
Although streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are the future and cable television is quickly becoming a thing of the past, it has many great attributes that should not just be simply left behind.

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