Saturday, July 29, 2023

Will Streaming TV Evolve to a Network TV Model?

Scott D. Parker

A few weeks ago, my wife started watching “Brothers and Sisters,” the family drama/comedy that ran on ABC from 2006 to 2011. It stars Calista Flockhart, Sally Field, Matthew Rhys, Rachel Griffiths, Rob Lowe, and Dave Annable. Like much of network TV I didn’t watch at the time, I kinda remembered it as “that show with Sally Field and Ally McBeal.”

But I sat down to watch a few episodes with her and it’s quite enjoyable. Having Rob Lowe speak political words (like he did so well in “The West Wing”) is something I always enjoy. And now that I’ve watched both seasons of HBO’s “Perry Mason,” I now know who Matthew Rhys is. I really loved him in Perry Mason and he plays a lawyer in this show as well so I’m locked in.

I drift in and out of watching—she watches an episode or two when I’m at work—but always ask questions like “What’s Ally up to now?” or “How’s Perry Mason doing?” or “Hey, I know that actor…” [and then pull up the internet to figure it out].

When I reviewed the show’s IMDB page, I noted that, other than the 16-episode second season, the other four seasons aired 22 or more episodes. It was the reliable network schedule: start in September and go all the way to May.

When premium shows started, the number of episodes usually shrank. The Sopranos had 13 per season. Ted Lasso was ten. Shrinking had eight. Depending on the streaming service and the number of episodes, after eight weeks or so, you were done. Or a weekend.

There’s a certain comfort-food type quality to an old fashioned network TV drama. Yes, I’ll admit that some of those twentysomething episodes were filler. If you don’t mind, then you get nine months of content.

Then again, I know some folks who, say, hear about Ted Lasso and how good it is. They’ll wait until all the episodes are available, subscribe to AppleTV for a month, binge the show, and then cancel.

As evidenced by the current writers’ and actors’ strike, the people who make our content are going to have to reckon with streaming and the future, and not just AI. Prices will most likely go up. Content might be reduced or removed.

So here’s a thought: as someone who subscribes to the basic Hulu, Peacock, and Paramount, I still get commercials. I don’t mind at all. And I still have cable TV that are chock full of commercials. I suspect more streaming services will ultimately offer an ad-supported offering for a lower fee. When they do, that’ll be the option I’ll gravitated toward.

When that happens, and in an effort to keep subscribers subscribed for longer periods of time, do you think streaming networks (that’s what they are) will deliver a traditional 22-episode season?

No comments: