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Do We Need Network Television Anymore?
I hardly ever watch any of my favorite shows live anymore. I will occasionally tune in for important episodes like Michael last episode on The Office, but I generally don’t watch a lot of TV. On my television, that is. More and more, I watch my TV shows on internet services like Netflix and Hulu. With Netflix, I can watch many episodes at a time without any advertising (though with some shows, this proves to torpedo my productivity). On Hulu, I can catch each week’s episode of shows like Parks and Recreation at my leisure instead of having to watch them at a specific time. So, the question is, do we even need network television anymore?
On one hand, no, we don’t. Most of the most popular TV shows are available online, and they are often more convenient to watch. Also, the revenue of online companies is beginning to approach the revenue of the major networks, making online distribution even more viable. Netflix has recently reported quarterly revenue that is close to a billion dollars, making their projected yearly revenue quite close to that of many of the major networks, or at least in the same arena. Recently, Netflix and Hulu have cast their hats into the original programming ring with projects such as the next season of Arrested Development coming exclusively to Netflix in spring 2013 (start counting down the days folks!). If this original programming can sustain viewership, whats’ to say that places like Netflix and Hulu can become the premier place to go for original programming instead of major networks.
But there’s one thing standing in the way of this seemingly obvious transition: professional sports. In America, football games represent almost all of the highest rated television programs of the year, and the Super Bowl alone makes billions of dollars (making several hours of live television worth the same as the revenue Netflix makes in several months). Other sports like baseball, basketball, hockey, and soccer may not have quite the same viewership, but they still are big money-makers, especially during their respective playoffs and championship games (or series’). While ESPN does have their online service ESPN3, that service exposes the one flaw with watching all television on a computer screen: it’s not as comfortable as kicking back on the couch. During football season, I look forward to kicking back every Sunday and watching some football.
Ultimately, I don’t think we are quite ready to abandon traditional television just yet. Services like Netflix and Hulu certainly offer compelling experiences, but they lack arguably the single most important event on network television, the Super Bowl, and they lack all other professional sports. In the end, it’s nice to watch television on the internet, but sometimes it’s better to just kick back and turn on the television set.