The politics of streaming television programming over the internet just keeps getting more and more complicated as time goes on. And every time at the center of the debate have been the major television networks, the cable distributors, Hulu, and Netflix.
The debate that has been slowing gaining in momentum, at least among the tech-savvy, is whether or not the user can finally cut the cord, or more specifically the cable, and go completely ala-carte with their at home television and movie viewing. There have been great strides in internet streaming video, and several set-top boxes to take advantage of that. The biggest problem with this solution has so far been that either, the networks or the cable companies themselves, have started blocking access to them on a device level. This is considered part of the reason Google TV is DOA on the market.
Every network and cable provider wants to be the one-stop-shop for all their viewers needs, even when they do not, and cannot, provide all available content their viewers want. If the makers of these boxes don’t play ball, then their box will get blocked, though some have found ways to work around it. As it stands, they want the user to watch it live, or on Hulu on a PC, and nowhere else until a some unspecified time later that Netflix is allowed access. And in the middle is the cable providers giving the users the access, and doing what the networks want.
Well, Netflix has fired what might be the first shot in the war. The war against cable companies, and, if the reader is so inclined to agree, the networks’ near stranglehold over new content. It has been reported that Netflix is now in talks with the actual television studios to provide next day access to new programming and that they are offering between $70,000 and $100,000 per episode.
Netflix has already made deals with NBC and Relativity Media for early streaming rights on some programming. A deal of this type would effectively remove cable from the equation, and put Netflix in direct competition with Hulu and its backers. While this definitely has plenty of upsides for the end users, in the form of more options for viewing their favored programming, it could end up being problematic for the studios and networks, which derive more revenue from advertisements, DVD sales, and pay-per-view than they would potentially gain from this deal with Netflix. That would potentially mean lower quality programming, when the networks, arguably, already cancel better shows than the ones they renew.
This could mean something. But at the moment, this is like the recent Comcast/Level 3 boondoggle, a big wait and see. We the users want our content any way we can get it. To us, easier is better, and Netflix is pretty easy. But, the entrenched studio/network/cable system is based around maintaining tight, complex control over their content, and Netflix throws a wrench in everything that system is. It’s a debate that likely will not be resolved quickly or easily, but it is something to keep an eye on.