by Mike McHugh
The thing that amazes me about today’s society is how we don’t think twice about paying for things that used to be free. Take water, for instance. If you walked into a store during the 1960’s and paid two dollars for a bottle of water, everyone would think you had the sense of a Milk Dud.
The same is true with television. It used to be that everyone got his or her programming for free over an antenna. You can still do that, in fact. Sure, you wouldn’t get as many channels as you do with a pay subscription. Instead of over 200 channels with nothing worth watching, you may get only five. But you save a lot of money, enough perhaps to buy a round of water for everyone in the stands at your next high school basketball game.
Even at that, you’d probably still have money left over subscribe to a service such as Netflix or Amazon Prime that streams Video on Demand. The beauty of these services is that they allow you to watch what you want whenever you want. I made the switch myself a few months back.
My old pay TV provider keeps calling to try to get me to come back. Ironically, they usually call when I’m watching something on Netflix.
“You’ve called at a bad time,” I’d say. “I’m in the middle of watching ‘Breaking Bad.’”
“That’s fine sir. We’ll try back in an hour.”
“You’d better make it next Thursday,” I reply. “I’ve still got 39 more episodes.”
This illustrates one of the risks involved with Video on Demand. With VOD, our society has found a brand new obsession (as if we really need one) called ‘binge watching.” Folks will get so into a TV series that they will watch every season, from the first episode to the last, without getting up off the sofa even to eat or take a shower. In fact, many water districts have reported a sharp drop in usage since the advent of Video on Demand for this very reason. It’s either that or people are showering with bottled water. I wouldn’t be surprised.
There’s another risk that comes with Video on Demand—one that I have faced personally and that I completely didn’t foresee. Because all of the programming is offered for streaming only after it has run on the network channels, there’s a distinct likelihood that someone you know has already seen it before you and will give away all of the juicy plot points before you get the chance to watch it for yourself.
Recently, I was part of a conversation where the topic was television. By the time it was over, I’d been robbed of every surprise twist in “Walking Dead,” “The Wire,” “Game of Thrones,” and the devil knows what else. This was despite my best efforts to steer the conversation towards “The Beverly Hillbillies,” which is perhaps the only series that I’ve yet seen in its entirely.
I have a solution to this problem, and that would be for producers to institute a secret handshake that would be revealed during the series finale. If you start talking to someone and he doesn’t know the secret handshake, then you’d know that any discussion involving that particular series would be strictly taboo.
Such issues aside, I’m totally sold on streaming video. I’m thinking of offering my services as a spokesperson. I’ve even got a line:
“I’m Binge Watching Dang Yankee, and I have Video on Demand.” Eat your heart out, Rob Lowe.