Will HBO Dominate Film and Cable TV?

In regards to watching shows these days, a common question heard amongst adolescents is, “Do you have HBO?” (And if so, can I have your password?) I too am guilty of asking a few of my friends this because of my “dire need” to watch The Wire, Sex and the City, or Westworld. I must admit, that is quite the variety. hbo-logo.jpgAs someone who loves the abundance of entertainment on the Internet whether it’s through HBO, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc., I can’t help but notice how over the years I have gravitated more towards watching shows and movies in the comfort of my own room on my laptop rather than on my TV or even the movie theaters (that’s not to say I don’t love going to the movies).
Unfortunately it is not only me who has started going to the movies less and watching cable television, it is the majority of my generation. That being said, where will the future of entertainment reside? Will there  be any movie theaters in say, thirty years? Will satellite television networks such as HBO dominate the market? 

First off, it is important to take a look at how HBO became one of the most successful networks in cable television. In Jennifer Holt’s book Empires of Entertainment: Media Industries and the Politics of Deregulation, 1980-1996, she discusses the rise of HBO. 51t94bf72NL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
In 1975, “…HBO was the television industry’s first client for SATCOM I and this new method of distribution put HBO on the map as the dominant force in pay-cable service…”(28). SATCOM I is an RCA communications satellite, which allowed for HBO to be available on 262 cable systems across the United States. The growth in subscribers to pay-TV (such as HBO) grew exponentially. By 1980, “…HBO had about 6 million subscribers, accounting for 69 percent of the pay-cable market at the time. In the summer of 1980, HBO’s programming got a higher share rating than CBS, NBC, or ABC for the first time in its short history” (Holt, 28).

Even before the dot-com boom in 2000, HBO was beginning to heavily integrate itself into the lives of Americans. The film industry was worried by HBO’s market dominance due to its growth. The service network serves as a monopsony, which means one buyer has power over a variety of sellers, resulting in the buyer’s ability to control the price paid of the product. Due to HBO’s economic success, they were able to buy almost any movie produced in Hollywood, which worried the studios. With power and money comes control and that’s exactly what HBO did; they would leverage the “…production financing for more control of the films” (Holt, 29). All of this powerful activity surrounding HBO led them to not only be the greatest pay-TV network, it was a “…new style merchant bank” (29), their goal being to work major Hollywood studios such as Paramount and Columbia out of the production business.

In an article called Hollywood Has a Huge Millennial Problem, Derek Thompson states, “Perhaps Hollywood’s funk is even worse than a sequel slump. In 2016, the film industry is on pace to sell the fewest U.S. tickets per person of any year since perhaps before the 1920s and the fewest total tickets in two decades.” Hollywood as we know it has taken a downhill turn creatively, resluting in less and less people taking the time, effort, and spending to the money to go to the movies. Sequals seem to be the only successful part of the film business. That being said, more and more individuals are turning towards streamline shows that they can binge watch, whether they are 20 minutes or an hour long. What makes HBO “special” is that it can show explicit content such as nudity and language due to the fact it does not run on broadcast television/basic cable.

1978-decay-of-the-hollywood-sign.jpgWith HBO providing movies as well as television to vieweres in the comfort of their own homes, there becomes less and less a reason to go out and purchase a movie ticket. The network was designed to seduce us back into our homes by providing easily accessible cinematic quality television and film.



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