Premium Nets Are Changing the Face of TV

Last week I watched the season finale of HBO's Treme, the season premiere of the ABC's The Glades, & the latest installment of NBC's Persons Unknown. The difference in overall quality of the shows hit me like a freight train. Treme was a well written, well produced tragic send off of its 1st season. The Glades came off of as Dark Shadows w/ a Desperate Housewives twist (if not for the cliffhanger ending, I would have deleted it from my DVR timer). I do like Persons Unknown, but feel it is holding back, no where near realizing its full potential.

You know, it has gotten to the point where I am tempted to downsize my Dish Network subscription to just the Premium Cable Networks. If not for the very verbal backlash from my family, I would probably do just that.

Why do this?

Because, w/ a few exceptions, there really isn't anything I can't live w/o on the broadcast or basic cable networks. Now if I lost HBO while True Blood was airing new eps, I'd drive myself crazy wondering what is happening. Then there are HBO shows like Treme, & the upcoming Boardwalk Empire & A Game of Thrones. Don't even get me started on all the shows I'm missing on Showtime and Starz, (both of which I had a subscription to at one point, but unfortunately we can only afford one premium package). The premium networks are where to get good, intelligent TV.

When you think about it, it is amazing how much has changed in the last 10-15 years. Before the Sopranos & Sex In the City, the premium nets were all about attracting subscribers via the "latest, greatest blockbuster only found here." Now it's their original programming which they tout. Not to mention, they have no reason to really pay attention to Nielsens, which are designed for measuring viewer count for advertising revenue. All HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc care about are attracting & retaining subscribers. My guess is they trade reporting from satellite & cable carriers (Dish Network, Comcast, etc) for licensing fee credits (thus all the 3 months free deals). When you think about it, the premium networks don't give a shit about how old a viewer is, whether or not they own or rent, of if they're going to the mall w/n the next week to burn some cash. They don't care as long as that particular person is subscribed to and watching their network.

The entertainment industry is changing. The Nielsen system has been outdated since before the Commodore 64. Advertisers are more frugal w/ their spending, often opting to go with the cheaper online alternative to get their brand out. Not to mention, major networks have no patience w/ original programming if they need to grow an audience, often opting to go with the much cheaper reality programming "alternative programming". The basic cable nets have the patience to grow audiences w/ shows (especially if it receives positive critical & blogger reviews), but most either don't have or are unwilling to risk more than a bare-minimum production budget. The premium networks, however, create a TV show in a similar manner of a movie. They spend the budget to create a well crafted TV experience. They even have the entire season in the can before it airs...total opposite of the major networks, who order scripts by the episode (hmmm, maybe that is why many network shows seem disjointed).

However, I believe over the next 5 years, we're going to see more and more networks following the "HBO model". We're already seeing evidence of it now. AMC's Breaking Bad, SyFy's Caprica, & FX's Justified to name a few. Though they might not necessarily have the budget of the premium networks, each is an ambitious, intelligent TV experience. I am certain we will see these examples & a more cable original programming nominated along side, if not dominating, in most categories come the July 8th Emmy announcements. If the past couple of years hold true, many cable series will beat out their major network counterparts and take home the Emmy.

Okay, so maybe I'll keep my basic cable subscription. I don't think I'd be able to function w/o having access to Breaking Bad, Caprica, or SG-U when their new seasons premiere. I'll also be keeping my HBO subscription, but keeping a close eye on the other premium networks. DVDs are cheaper than two more $9 - $12 per month subscriptions...well, that is until I start buying 3 or 4 of their shows per quarter. The premium nets don't have enough programming hours to be there...yet...but every year it seems like they add more programming hours, & every year the shows get more ambitious in both scope and production values.


1 comment:

  1. I don't think I watched a single episode of SGU live. It is harder to get quality tv, but when you do...