In the eyes of many viewers, television is currently at a crossroads, as streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime becoming increasingly popular, drawing customers away from traditional television channels. But while these similar methods of entertainment are often portrayed as being at odds with one another, there has recently been a significant change in how they interact: many networks are now allowing streaming services to advertise during their streaming services. This could have a significant impact on our normal tasks and viewing habits, from programming a remote to the number of television remote controls in our homes. But what does this change mean for the entertainment industry as a whole?
Television networks haven’t always welcomed their alternate services. For example, in the past, the cable network HBO relied heavily on print and online advertising, as many companies refused to work with what they saw as their competition. This sense of rivalry extended to their relationships with other networks: one story claims that CBS and NBC once refused to run an advertisement for General Motors in the 1990s because it starred actor Dennis Franz as a cop issuing a ticket. At the time, Franz starred as a police detective on ABC’s “NYPD Blue”, a rival network.
Now, however, flipping through the channels with your TV remote controls will turn up a number of advertisements for streaming services and even cable networks. ABC’s broadcast of the Oscars, one of TV’s biggest annual events, featured ads for Netflix, Google Play and AMC. Likewise, NBC has run commercials for Amazon’s streaming service, and some popular TV shows have even featured spots for Hulu, Chromecast and more. But why would networks issue valuable commercial time to what could rightfully be described as their greatest competition, especially as these services begin offering unique content, special programmable remote controls and other new benefits?
The answer seems to be that the networks can benefit from this change in a number of ways: firstly, research shows that big players in the profitable cosmetics, automobile and pharmaceutical industries scaled back their advertising considerably in 2014. Meanwhile, Google, Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services have all increased their spending on TV advertising just as significantly, offering needed revenue. Additionally, because streaming services still offer network content, many companies stand to profit in the long term by allowing these service to offer their shows and movies for a fee.
Many psychologists and other interests say they are watching this new business model with interest, as they believe the new commercials and partnerships have the potential to change consumer behavior. In a few years, perhaps all remotes will come with buttons for streaming services, or maybe we’ll forgo our TV remote controls to watch our favorite shows on other devices. No matter what happens, one thing is certain: our television industry, from our TV remote controls to our content options, has changed significantly.