Is there too much to watch on television?

By Lauren Edwards

It is a common occurrence in our household to endlessly scroll through Virgin, then Netflix and then Amazon Prime only to complain that ‘there isn’t anything on,’ when clearly there is, but we are so saturated with a multitude of options that we are now physically unable to commit to one show.

Recently, streaming giant Netflix announced that they had lost in the region of 200,000 subscribers in the first three months of 2022, prompting their shares to plummet by more than 35% with $50bn wiped off their market value. The reason, in part, is due to growing competition from other streaming platforms such as Apple TV and Disney and the increase in subscriber fees amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Simpler times

As a child of the 1980s, we had three television channels to choose from and a weekly visit to Blockbuster video to rent ‘the latest release’ – if you were lucky enough to arrive before the agony of ‘the turned over VHS cover’ (if you know you know…). On Saturday mornings we camped out on the sofa watching Going Live or Number 73, before heading outside to ‘play out’ with your street mates so that Dad could watch Grandstand and fill out his football pools.

Channel 4 launched in the early 1980s delivering more controversial shows such as Eurotrash, Brookside, and Big Brother. They kicked off the 1990s with their morning show The Big Breakfast. This hugely popular alternative to BBC Breakfast ran for ten years and was abundant with A-list celebrities and often inappropriate behaviour from guest hosts. Who can forget the iconic moment Michael Hutchence intimately cosied up with Paula Yates on the Big Breakfast bed?

The Word was the post-pub must watch. Huge bands such as Nirvana and Oasis performed their debut live performances, whilst Terry Christian, Katie Puckrick and Amanda De Cadenet interviewed a plethora of huge celebs with no holds barred questioning intertwined with games such as ‘The Hopefuls’ where fame hungry audience members would agree to literally ‘do anything to get on TV.’ This included eating lard and wearing dog poo filled sandals – two of the tamest examples I am willing to share with you!

MTV changed my life as a teen. Having put up with a once a week 30-minute episode of Top of the Pops, when a 24-hour music television channel arrived on Sky Television, it was a thing of wonder. Unfortunately, my family did not purchase the required enormous satellite dish to access this new world of international television, but other friends had and so most weekends we gathered at their houses to binge watch videos from Aerosmith, Red Hot Chili Peppers and of course Beavis and Butthead.

Watching four seasons in one day

This current world of constant programming is addictive. When a new series arrives on Netflix, you can watch the whole thing in one sitting. My teenage children can easily sit catatonic as each programme merges into the next, cutting out credits and not providing much of a window to opt out before delivering the next episode within seconds. And you can watch it anywhere, on your mobile, tablet or PC. It is a far cry from my childhood having to sit through Bergerac with my parents as we only had the one television in the lounge.

Despite much criticism, Channel 4 seems set to be privatised. Currently, the channel is a publicly owned network that reinvests the profits from its advertisements into their programming instead of into the pockets of its shareholders. Critics are concerned that the privatisation will affect the channel’s creative freedom. There has also been a lot of buzz about the future of the BBC and whether the television licence is a sustainable way of safeguarding this beloved institution.

Netflix are planning to crack down on ‘freeloaders,’ as it is estimated that more than 100million households watch the service for free by sharing passwords. However, to subscribe to all the streaming networks could cost a household a whopping £2,500 a year so how do we choose which provider is best? It is just not possible to keep increasing our monthly premiums for separate services in the hope that the one you choose will have the best content. Perhaps just four channels with Ceefax were not so bad after all?!



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