Why Can’t HBO Be Like Netflix?

“Why can’t HBO be like Netflix?” That is the question a friend asked me the other day. She was annoyed that she couldn’t subscribe to HBO without having a cable subscription. I started to explain it to her but it got very complicated and the more I spoke and thought about it the more I realized I couldn’t answer it easily.

The topic of television and Netflix and HBO and streaming and  broadcast and cable and so on is all very complicated. I decided maybe its better to start from the (sort of) beginning and go from there.

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86th Academy Awards

The Academy Awards are terrible at their stated goal of rewarding “the previous year’s greatest cinema achievements as determined by some of the world’s most accomplished motion picture artists and professionals”. As Linda Holmes pointed out in her post yesterday, what the Academy Award nominees and winners really tell you is what the predominantly white, male voters decide the narrative of the annual exercise is. That’s fine. The Academy Awards exist only to generate a narrative which people will repeat and debate and will lead to (from the Academy’s most hopeful point of view) people spending money on movies.

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Credit: ABC

One good thing about not having to watch television for a living is that I am not spending my time now watching broadcast network pilots. I have the luxury of waiting for the TV critics to wade through the pile and recommend what they think is best, waiting to find which series, if any, realized their potential and turned out to be good shows. The critics have ideas now about what shows we’ll be discussing and tweeting about next year but they can’t be sure. I can wait until they are sure. I mention this because my wife and I just completed watching the first two seasons of Scandal, the ABC show that everyone was talking about earlier this year.

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The Future of Television


Last Friday, Tim Goodman had a post called “Lost in the Supermarket: How to Survive When There’s Too Much Good TV”. Tim’s point is that there is a lot of great series that should be watched but not everyone watches because there is too much to choose from. “Freedom of choice is gumming up the works.” This is similar to what Alan Sepinwall posted in April and echoes what a lot of people feel. Naturally, I have some thoughts.

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