The Best of Dragon Con 2016 Panels: Streaming Services vs. Cable TV
This year I had the pleasure of being on three panels with Dragon Con’s American Sci-Fi Fantasy Media track, and my favorite of the three – by far – was a panel that focused on discussing streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, and how they are changing the way we watch TV.
As someone who made the choice to cancel my cable subscription in the summer of 2015, I loved being able to sit on this panel and talk about my life after cable television. I’ve usually been one to wait for a show to get through several seasons before watching it, anyway, and when I had cable, I used it about once a week when certain shows aired. It simply wasn’t worth the $130/month I was paying, and when I tried to switch to basic cable, they quoted me over $100 a month *for ten channels*, versus paying just $60 a month for Internet access and then adding subscriptions to streaming services to that. Another service I tried for a while was Sling, so that I could watch The Walking Dead as it aired, but sadly my experience with it was not a good one – the app often wouldn’t load, or would crash during the episode, presumably because too many people were watching it at once.
Thankfully, I don’t have that problem when I’m delving into old episodes of a show I’ve never watched or binge-watching something new on Netflix, Hulu, etc. As I mentioned, these services have changed how so many people have watched TV – and they’ve also given us new shows to love, or brought back old shows that were canceled. Throughout the discussion, both panelists and audience members gave recommendations such as Netflix’s Sense8 and Stranger Things (no surprises there), Amazon Prime’s Man in the High Castle, and Hulu’s 11.22.63. And while Netflix sadly doesn’t keep shows around forever (can we start a petition for them to bring back Battlestar Galactica?), I’ve been able to catch up on past seasons of everything from Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23 to The Last Kingdom to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to Penny Dreadful…and more.
Another great point that was made – and which I briefly touched on above – are the shows we wouldn’t have, or wouldn’t have more of, were it not for Netflix and Hulu. Stranger Things was turned down by several networks before Netflix gave it the go-ahead. Arrested Development suffered from an untimely cancellation, but we got one more season, also thanks to Netflix. And of course Hulu brought back The Mindy Project.
The fact of the matter is, this panel about streaming services made it very clear to those in attendance that cable companies simply aren’t fighting hard enough to keep their customers. Some of them are now offering streaming services that come with a free Roku or similar device for about the same price as Sling ($20-ish per month), but it doesn’t seem as if the customers even care anymore. We can get a lot of entertainment for a lot less money these days, and let’s be honest, the way these streaming services produce their own shows often make them more enjoyable to watch than those airing on a weekly basis.
That, and seasonal TV almost seems to be a thing of the past – gone are the days where shows air from September to December, pick back up again in mid January or so, and end their seasons in May. Cable shows often air for about two months, sometimes less, take a two month break (sometimes more), and then have another couple of months before their seasons end…but meanwhile, Netflix for example is putting out new shows or new seasons of shows almost every month of the year. Granted, not all of them have the quality of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or Daredevil or Jessica Jones, but just like any major network, if something isn’t rated well or doesn’t get a lot of views, Netflix probably won’t bring it back for more seasons. So hey, some things are still the same…even if there is no “live or die by the pilot episode” on Netflix like there often is with shows produced for television.
Overall, I was amazed by the fact that four panelists and a packed room of Dragon Con attendees filled an entire hour (and could have gone longer) talking about how awesome it is that we have these streaming services available now and how they are slowly but surely changing the face of mainstream cable. Not to mention all of the great show recommendations that were given! Huge thanks to the American Sci-Fi Fantasy Media Track – and to my fellow panelists Zan, Will, and Gary – for a great Dragon Con panel[ist] experience!
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is a fandom and geek culture expert, public speaker, and character cosplayer who is best known for her Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones), Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica), and Andrea (The Walking Dead) cosplays. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.