TV’s Bleak But Bright Future

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Reihan Salam links today to a post by UCLA sociologist Gabriel Rossman on the future of television if the cable universe moves to a la carte pricing. Long story short, simple economics suggests that we’ll all cut back on the number of channels we subscribe to, which in turn means that we’ll end up with both (a) fewer channels and (b) channels with lower production values. I’ve long thought this was pretty obviously true, and it’s what’s made me sort of a mushy supporter of a la carte pricing. Still, a supporter I am, and Reihan suggests what will happen if/when this comes to pass:

But this could mean that U.S. viewers will consume more entertainment that is peer-produced, produced overseas, or by institutions that otherwise work outside of the WGA and SAG structure. Quality writing is of course very important, but perhaps quality writers will attach themselves to hyper-realistic animation projects, etc. No more actors! Or rather a somewhat smaller cadre of actors who focus primarily on screen-capture work, and who make middle-class wages rather than outsized sums. There are many, many ways this phenomenon could play out.

Italics mine. For what it’s worth, this is what I think is going to happen in the medium term. I’m not sure just how distant this is, but I don’t think we’re too far away from an era where a single person — or perhaps a small team — can create high-quality, 100% CGI shows that are virtually the equal of what you see today on network TV. Think xtranormal.com but with supercomputers and a crack creative team. Basically, you’ll need some good scriptwriters and a few good designers and that’s it. Brave new world, eh?

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