September 13th, 2017

Garwulf's Corner #55 - Useful Donkeys

A few years ago, one of the banes of my childhood resurfaced. I was watching the remastered Star Trek episodes premiere on CBS, but there was a problem – they were almost always scheduled behind a football game.

What this meant in practice was a frustration that I was all too familiar with – the already late episode start times were often delayed by up to three quarters of an hour, and in some cases episodes would be started in progress, losing more than half the episode. What made it particularly irksome was that sports in America have been televised nationally since 1951 – channels like CBS have no excuse not to know how long games are likely to run, and the fact that they were almost always going long suggests that they were being short-changed on the schedule.

This may seem petty for a Garwulf's Corner installment, but it does matter. And the reason it matters all comes down to content, and who makes it.

Television networks – along with traditional media in general – are likely at the beginning of a struggle for survival. More people than ever are electing to replace their cable – according to Variety last year, the numbers may be as high as 25% of American households no longer having a cable subscription, with around 17% relying on broadcast television, and the rest using streaming services like Netflix. This number is only likely to increase over time, and streaming services – providing commercial-free content upon demand – have most of the advantages in this struggle.

They are, you see, "useful donkeys."

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Robert B. Marks is the author of Diablo: Demonsbane, The EverQuest Companion, and Garwulf's Corner. His newest book, An Odyssey into Video Games and Pop Culture, is available in print and Kindle formats. He also has a Livejournal and is on Facebook.

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