How Streaming Services Are Re-Inventing the Wheel
It’s undeniable: Streaming services are beginning to look a lot like cable companies — or at least like networks with enticing cable packages. For between $7 to $15, you can nab a subscription to one (or most likely more than one) of the many channel-esque providers.
Although at one time you could probably name all the big subscription-based streaming services — Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Amazon Prime — the sheer amount of options now is starting to feel like reinventing the wheel. Sure, people may be cutting out cable packages to cut costs — and stop paying for bundled channels they don’t want — but streaming services have created a real "wolf in sheep’s clothing" situation. If Orange Is the New Black, then streaming channels is the new cable bundle.
How Did Cable Take Off?
Cable got its name because radio frequency signals are transmitted through coaxial (and fiber-optic) cables, as opposed to early broadcast television, which transmitted programming over the air to television antennas. Originating in the states in 1948, cable was a way to remedy over-the-air TV’s limitations. Often, distance and mountainous terrain made it tricky for folks to receive broadcasts, so as cable picked up steam, communities established shared antennas at higher elevations to receive signals. Within four years, 70 cable systems provided programs to roughly 14,000 homes across the U.S.
Netflix Kicks Off the Streaming Revolution
Over the next few decades, cable saw a plethora of new advancements — digital cable services, video-on-demand services and high-def quality. By the late 2000s, around 800 programming networks provided services to about 93% of Americans. All the while, another game-changer was brewing on the horizon: Netflix.
Competition Enters the Ring
Now, users have a myriad of subscription-based service options, from Amazon Prime, HBO Now and NBC’s Peacock to CBS All Access, Apple TV+, Disney+ and Hulu — which offers Hulu Live (literally cable…?) and holds the distinct honor of being the first streaming service to nab a Best Drama Emmy for The Handmaid’s Tale. By fragmenting into channel-esque services — and outbidding each other for the rights to beloved shows — all these streaming services seem to be reinventing the wheel. Of course, with many of them operated by the corporations that run cable companies, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.