Zeitgeist Trends: Entertainment

The predictions below are based on observation of trends and how these trends associate with future patterns. In my experience this tends to be pretty accurate, even though it only amounts to a heuristic “science”. That disclaimer aside, I present the following for consideration.

The profitability of Cable TV will shrink – as my generation (early twenties) and the younger generation continue gaining responsibility as head or co-head of household.

That cable TV’s profits are diminishing over the past few years is a statistical reality. To those of us on the periphery, the reasons may seem obvious: compared to pairing up services for Hulu and Netflix (about $17.99/month, combined)  not only is cable TV substantially more expensive (a decent channel selection averaging about $40 a month, not including DVR capabilities in one or every room), it is also clunky, archaic, and badly organized.

Cable TV has benefited by a “grace period” , due majorly to the reluctance of an older generation (even though many additionally have Hulu and Netflix accounts) to go without a service that they have used so habitually and for so long. For now, Cable TV is also helped by a demographic of Seniors, many of whom could not be bothered to switch over to streaming services.

While cable and satellite are aware of the threat presented by streaming, their response has been short-sighted. “On Demand” services offer limited pickings, and two primary service providers, Time Warner Cable and Verizon Fios, are hindered by an ugly, clunky, hard to navigate user interface. Cable or Satellite providers may attempt to win over exclusive rights to air popular shows, but this tactic is precarious, analogous to going to war with an army full of mercenaries. After all, the true problem is not streaming providers like Hulu or Netflix. It is the general trend of the consumer to adopt, over time, the better and more sensible, evolved technology.

Internet streaming is that technology, and my peer group already knows that. We are the ones who are not paying for cable at all when we move into our new apartments with a few roommates. We already know that the internet is all that we need to pay for.

Like radio, I suspect TV will survive in some altered and diminished form. But if TV providers want to survive as an industry, they should probably consider redesigning their product from the ground up.

The Movie Industry is losing its grip on collective consciousness

This one may come as a little more of a surprise. Certainly, there are still some popular or highly anticipated film titles out there. The Movie Buff is too intrinsic in our culture to ever go extinct. Still, the average quality, originality, and artistic merit of films has been decreasing steadily for years. Hollywood may feign nonchalence – still sunny TMZ and bling bling in SoCal – but Hollywood has a public image to keep up, no less then Katy Perry or Russell Brand.

Actually, as you can see for yourself here if you’d like, ticket sales in the U.S/Canada are up by 1% – a stark counter to the revenue decreases of 2010-12. However, this small increase is due to an increased price of admissions – so while quantity continues declining, those who attend movies frequently are paying more. Breaking even may not be so bad, but consider this: Movie buffs, about 11% of the population, were responsible for 50% – half –  of all ticket sales in 2013. 89%, or approximately 9/10ths of us , were responsible for the other half.

Whoa. For an American pastime like movie-going, that’s a pretty uneven distribution scale.

If it doesn’t worry them now, then they are losing the forest for the trees, missing the bigger picture here. There is a fundamental problem with our movies today: they aren’t just retelling the Hero’s Journey anymore…they’re rehashing old scripts, too. And it’s not the fault of directors, but the “Science” of making a profitable movie, which every good producer is certain to study. Safe is always better then sorry, and only directors with the utmost of clout in the industry are likely to get a chance to make anything resembling interesting or artistic when another sequel could be made.

With exception to works with prior canonization (The Hunger Games [book] Transformers, Captain America, Spiderman, Guardians of the Galaxy [comic books]), the overwhelming glut of films being released suffer from tropes and plots that scarcely even seem to bother trying to conceal the formula anymore. The clear Hero’s Journey progression is an absolute stable in screenwriting nowadays – you even get to learn how distribute plot elements in screentime based on the expected progression of monomyth’s milestones (crossing the threshold, refusing the call, first trial, etc).

I’m pretty sure Campbell was positing this outline as a model, not a replicator. Trying to think of any recent original works that have recently come out of Hollywood and made a splash in public consciousness? Possessing a memetic virility? I’m drawing a blank.

TV Steals the Memetic Show

In the past, TV actors were scoffed at by Movie Stars and “serious actors”, their position on the home television seen as artistically less serious, and altogether less glamorous. While this may still be true, the past couple of years have seen the production of TV shows with vastly more artistic complexity then Hollywood has been willing to gamble on.

Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Dexter, Breaking Bad, and Scandal are among a few of the titles that have made waves in public consciousness, demonstrating complexity in characterization and plots that demand tension and identification, rather then yawning while predicting the content of the next three scenes… just for fun.


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