Streaming Video Will Soon Look Like the Bad Old Days of TV

As media monoliths bundle their offerings, consumers will once again have to pay for a bunch of shows they don’t want.

By 2010, nine in 10 American homes were subscribed to a pay-television service. Many had also come to hate it.

Whether delivered by satellite, cable, fiber-optics, radio tower or DVR, “traditional” television had become overrun with klaxonic advertisements and series aimed at the widest possible audiences while meeting the narrowest of advertiser whims. Most television shows were still stuck on annoying schedules and delivered through dreadful channel guides and clunky cable boxes.

And it was expensive. The cost of the average cable package, stuffed with unwanted channels, had grown to $65 per month — and that was before hidden fees and unavoidable equipment charges.

So it was no surprise that audiences eventually flocked to streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu, which offered a balm for pay-TV’s frustrations. According to Nielsen, the average American now watches nearly a quarter less traditional television than a decade ago, with those under 34 years old having halved their consumption.

But the streaming video era is already starting to resemble the old age of television that viewers were so excited to escape. Many of the problems TV watchers thought they had left behind are just being remixed under different brands and bundles.

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