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Subscribing is better than advertising

With Game of Thrones’s seventh season coming to a close, it got me thinking about television and how we are so privileged to live in a time where we have such high quality entertainment. There are trends today that have led to the increase in quality content and the consumption of it. I credit much of this to the subscription-based model that many content providers follow. This ought to be the way we get our content.

These content providers include HBO, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Members pay a monthly subscription and gain access to a whole variety of original and non-original content. This is different than the traditional television model of selling advertising space where the ads pay for content provided by the studio.

The subscription model is better for companies and consumers because it eliminates the issues that come with advertiser-based funding. I have written before about the issues I have with advertising and the issues they cause our society in terms of perpetual material consumption and dissatisfaction. But I think that ads are destroying our sense of creativity and limiting the amount that we could push the boundaries.

The biggest barrier to entry for television shows is whether or not advertisers want to put their products on air with these shows. This is not a problem with subscription-based providers. These companies have the ability to take risks with content because they have a consistent stream of income free of outside influences. All that matters is that the customers like the shows that they are putting out. This is why I don’t have cable and instead subscribe to many of the subscription-based providers. As someone who appreciates the cinematic form and story, I would rather watch shows and films that take risks than the ones that follow norms.

For example, Game of Thrones is often regarded as one of the greatest shows created. But given the subject matter presented, imagine selling that to advertisers. In fact, this puts advertisers in quite the predicament. Either they accept this show based on ratings, act as hypocrites and sacrifice their “values” or they lose out on a platform that is arguably one of the biggest shows of all time.

Shows like this push the art of television and create a better experience for us all, and advertisers will never support them. Advertisement relies on safety and convention, whereas good art and content relies on risk and boundary pushing. That is how quality raises to the top.

Companies like Netflix, HBO, Hulu or Amazon want to push the edge of the television and film form because that creates new, interesting and fulfilling art. That is what will keep customers coming back. High quality content is dependent on innovation and risk. Advertising-based content will never allow this to happen.

Subscription services have the economic security to push the boundaries and bring forward content that raises the quality of art that we enjoy. Advertising needs to step aside if we want to have entertainment that is truly of higher quality and breaks norms.

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