THE answer to this question, I must admit, eludes me. But the era of deep and complex narrative television born with The Sopranos (and carried through Deadwood, Mad Men, etc) seems to have moved into another chapter as HBO and CBS announce streaming services. Here’s the beginning of my new piece on Salon:
The most prestigious of the cable channels and the most-watched of the traditional networks both now announced moves to streaming services. CBS’s service began last week; HBO’s will launch sometime next year, and its details are currently unclear. Both HBO Go and CBS All Access will allow people to watch their shows without subscribing to a cable service, and will add to the millions of existing “cord cutters” — a group, heavy on young viewers, that was already growing.
…Los Angeles Times business columnist David Lazaruz calls it “an understatement to say that this will shake up the pay-TV business as we know it.”
This could all be good for creators and consumers alike; my view is not as bleak as Salon’s headline. But remember Robert Frost’s line: “Nothing gold can stay.”