The Revolution WILL Be Televised

If you really hate your cable television provider, this was a banner week for you, though you may not know it.

As many industry pundits have long predicted, HBO finally announced that it would offer its wildly popular service, HBO GO, to subscribers who don’t otherwise subscribe to HBO via cable. What that means is you can get all your favorite HBO shows, including Game of Thrones, from any broadband connection for a monthly fee.

Again: this HBO split has been a long time coming. Game of Thrones is the most pirated show on television, largely from a group of young people who either don’t have cable at all or can’t afford cable and an HBO subscription. HBO has long been looking at ways to reign in the piracy issues, and offering HBO GO as a stand-alone service made a great deal of sense.

What no one (or at least no one I was reading) saw coming was that CBS announced their own service just two days later. This is a broadcast network, available to anyone for free over-the-air, home to weekly NFL broadcasts, television’s most-watched (and oldest skewing) prime-time lineup. And it can all be yours, in its entirety, for $5.99 a month via your nearest broadband connection.

Clearly, this was a reaction to the Aereo service lawsuit from last year. Aero was a service which essentially recorded network television shows and then provided them to its customers via internet connected devices. Once thought to be a death knell for the broadcast television industry, Aereo’s services were suspended following a Supreme Court decision last year. Though a win for the broadcast television industry, it was only a matter of time before the model had to change. Therefore, CBS has joined HBO in becoming its own television streaming service, like Hulu, Amazon, Netflix and a host of others.

Things have changed so quickly in the television industry over the last few years that it’s tough to predict what’s going to happen next. Given the television quality divide between broadcast and cable, I have to wonder if original, scripted television will be found…say, 10 years from now…on the AMC, FX and Starz streaming services. NFL may have pulled its rights from the networks, and be self-broadcasting and selling its own ad space on its own streaming channel. News is pretty clear – you’ll either subscribe to the CNN or Fox News channel, depending on who you vote for (and whether or not Fox News will even allow you to stream their service without passing some sort of loyalty exam is something else).

Where does this leave the broadcast networks? Hard to say. Is over-the-air, free television a right? Maybe – but maybe it’ll just be PBS and a few local networks for local news and emergency updates.

If anyone out there claims that they saw iPhones coming 15 years ago, they’re lying to you. The next technological revolution WILL be televised.