So many of our media consumption habits have changed in the past few years, but one habit that feels especially distant is the notion of gathering around with colleagues or friends to chat about the show everyone watched the night before.
Streaming entertainment (media delivered via the Internet) has amplified the idea of “binge watching,” or burning through a whole new season of a show in the days following its release, but some viewers are missing what is considered linear TV (watching media at the time it is broadcast on its original channel).
So what are the biggest networks and platforms thinking about streaming vs. linear TV? Netflix has been adamant that it has no intention of doing weekly releases for some of its more popular shows like Stranger Things, but does follow a weekly release format for original reality TV shows like The Circle. For HBO, some of the biggest titles like Succession are appearing simultaneously on the network and on HBO Max, requiring a weekly release format. This often creates a fan-oriented community atmosphere on social media the next day, where viewers are discussing the episode in detail.
Fox is still betting big on cable and is resistant to new streaming options—people still turning in for sports broadcasts helps boost their viewership numbers. ViacomCBS, which includes Paramount, seems to be testing the waters on what a hybrid approach looks like. During last month’s Tony Awards broadcast, Paramount Plus offered an additional hour of content to subscribers only before the network broadcast began.
The reality is that streaming, despite its obvious popularity, is still the wild west for networks. Consumer habits are shifting rapidly as more and more options become available to them and networks are making bets on what the next best thing will be. While streaming rates continue to rise, it’s clear that some people aren’t quite ready to completely give up cable.
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Is Netflix In Trouble?
Netflix has had a real rollercoaster of a year. After raising subscription prices, threatening to crack down on password sharing and losing more than 200,000 subscribers in the first few months of 2022, the company is understandably looking for ways to appease current customers and cut costs.
It has been announced that Netflix will introduce a new subscriber level that is ad-supported. This may come as a surprise to those who are used to uninterrupted viewing, but this is a successful and enticing option that platforms like Hulu, Paramount Plus and Peacock already offer. It’s not yet clear what that new level will cost, but Netflix’s current entry level is $9.99/month.
And while Netflix has laid off 450 staffers in the past few months, subscribers shouldn't worry quite yet. This seems to be more of a dedicated refocusing of priorities rather than the beginning of the end. New seasons of hit shows, like The Umbrella Academy and Stranger Things, continue to make headlines and draw in massive viewership. Stranger Things even managed to send the Kate Bush song “Running Up That Hill” to the top of the charts 37 years after its release. It will be up to Netflix to channel that energy into profit, while not alienating customers further.
The predecessor of Paramount Plus, CBS All Access, had been around since 2014, but once Viacom merged with CBS in 2019 (becoming ViacomCBS), the ball started rolling for how to relaunch a platform that incorporated all affiliated network brands and original content. That reimagined platform became Paramount Plus and was relaunched in March of 2021. The platform includes affiliated networks like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central and the Smithsonian Channel. The platform offers more than 30,000 on-demand titles, as well as live channels dedicated to news, reality TV, children’s entertainment and more. Paramount is pumping energy and money into exciting original programming across genres with spin offs like Star Trek: Discovery, 1883: A Yellowstone Origin Story, and for the news junkies out there, 60 Minutes +.
There are currently two different levels of subscription. The Essential package costs $4.99/month or $49.99/year (with a 7-day free trial) and is ad-supported. It does not include live coverage of your local CBS station, but NFL games broadcast via CBS are available. The Premium package is $9.99/month or $99.99/year and is ad-free (except for live TV). There is no free trial. This plan does include local live CBS stations. Because ViacomCBS also owns Showtime, Paramount Plus also offers a Showtime add-on for an additional fee. Paramount Plus offers three simultaneous streams, up to six profiles and mobile downloads for offline viewing. Paramount Plus is available on Apple TV, Amazon Fire devices, Roku devices, iOS and Android devices, Playstation, Xbox, and Samsung, LG and Vizio smart TVs.
What to Watch: Sci-Fi Edition
We love the way that movies and TV shows have the ability to transport us to far off lands, introduce us to brand new types of characters and surprise us with twists-and-turns we never saw coming. Here are some of the science-fiction titles that have us on the edge of our seats right now.
The hotly anticipated season four conclusion of Stranger Things hit Netflix on July 1. Consisting of two lengthy episodes, the second installment of the season will hopefully answer some of the biggest questions surrounding the villain monster Venca, introduced earlier in the season, and continue to follow our favorite ragtag team of sci-fi loving, monster fighting teens.
The latest entry into the world of Star Wars, this Disney Plus miniseries is set 10 years after the plot of 2005’s Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. The show follows Obi-Wan Kenobi as he sets out to rescue the kidnapped Princess Leia from the Galactic Empire. Ewan McGregor reprises his Star Wars prequel trilogy role as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Vivian Lyra Blair (from Netflix’s Birdbox) plays young Princess Leia.
Also on Disney Plus, Ms. Marvel is a new take on the coming-of-age story with superhero flair. Based on the Marvel comics character of Ms. Marvel, this miniseries shows Kamala Khan, a superfan of the Avengers, struggling to fit in and appease her strict parents until she discovers that she’s developing special powers of her own. Head writer Bisha K. Ali also served as a writer on the popular Marvel series Loki and was inspired by her own background as a South Asian woman to tackle this story. Kamala derives her powers from a magical bangle and they are intrinsically related to her Pakistani heritage. Overall, it’s a vibrant and multicultural show that’s great for families.
Who says science fiction can’t be romantic? This HBO series, based on a book of the same name, explores questions of identity and free-will when Henry—a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to sporadically travel through time—meets a young version of Clare, the woman he would later marry. The series is written by Steven Moffat, who is known for his work on Doctor Who, and is set in Chicago. Look out for recognizable landmarks like the Bean, the Art Institute and the El train.
This series is a prequel to the original Star Trek series and features younger versions of the characters you already know and love, like Spock and Nyota Uhura, exploring the galaxy. The show also shares some of the classic episodic structure of the original series, rather than longer thematic arcs of the newer variations.
A Final Word
Would you watch a sports game without commentary from broadcasters? Peacock is hoping the answer is yes. People watching the July 3 game between the Kansas City Royals and the Detroit Tigers on Peacock will have to go without the familiar play-by-play announcements. Instead Peacock's sports news team will be taking audiences along as they show the game from different vantage points and share special segments from the broader baseball community.
Peacock similarly went without announcers for much of its Winter Olympics programming. Is this innovation or cutting costs? Whichever it is, it may also be a glimpse of the future of streaming sports.
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