Cable’s Swan Song

One very clear trend I have seen, among my peers, who are just now renting their first apartments is that everyone is opting out of getting cable. When did cable die? I grew up on cable, and it wasn’t always about television shows, it was about the news and interviews with influential world figures. Then I got busy with school, completing college applications, and not getting home until 11 pm each night. I stopped watching television because television stopped fitting into my schedule.

Then I went to college and for four years and I was constantly busy, and the only television shows I had time to watch were the ones that were recorded on the television in my sorority house. I did not follow shows on a regular basis, I would watch one or two episodes every now and then when someone else was playing a recording.

Upon graduation, is it any wonder then that I opted out of paying for cable? For arguably the previous eight years of my life television had been utilized less and less. My situation is not universal, there are some who have had a completely opposite experience, for example one girl in my sorority kept a spreadsheet of her favorite shows and the times they aired so she could follow each one of them. However, she was the only friend I had who was so devoted to following her shows.

At dinner with friends post-graduation, the topic of television and shows always comes up and the conversation always comes back to what channel or subscription service we watch everything on. Most of my friends have chosen to stick with Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Instant over traditional cable. When we have a discussion of world events we are citing articles online, not our nightly news as our sources.

There has become a separation of fiction and nonfiction. During the day, we are reading articles on the web. We are getting to those articles from our social media networks most of the time, twitter. At night, when we are home and trying to relax we are following the latest television drama on Netflix. It’s comforting in most respects to view genres and be able to select whether we want to laugh, cry, or be terrified for the next 90 minutes of our life. That’s something you don’t always get to pick during the day, in the news. It’s about control and now we are able to control the content we watch, down to the speed at which we watch it.

It was no surprise then when earlier this week I learned of the Supreme Court agreeing to hear the Aereo case. There has been a lot of speculation on the part of journalists and myself as to what this could mean for cable networks. Is this case cable’s swan song?

While I’ll have to wait some time before getting my answer to that question, I leave you with this infographic (via Business Management Degree) which portrays an interesting battle.  If all of the twenty-somethings and I start switching over will the battle come between subscription services like Amazon and Netflix?

Breaking Bad: A Marketing Analysis

Breaking Bad is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon at present. A television show that has captivated the nation, as friends, family and coworkers band together to try and figure out what Walter White will do next.

Working in marketing, I suppose I always have an interest in anything that captivates mass audiences, I mean isn’t that what I’m supposed to do anyway?  I may get mocked for my love of “mainstream” music, but I’ll be honest I admire an artist’s ability to go mainstream. It’s not easy pleasing everyone, and still managing to create something new. It’s really something that a single show of complete fiction can evoke such vivid emotions in people, so much that we wonder if Walter White lived on our very street, ran our local car wash, or taught us chemistry at some point in time?

Breaking Bad captivates audiences because it is incredibly real. The show depicts  OUR lives each Sunday night on the screen before us with a sick twist. And as one becomes more involved in the show, tormented as the characters time and time again struggle to survive, we vicariously ‘break bad’ though them. If a 50 year-old chemistry teacher can become a legendary drug manufacturer in less than a year, what’s stopping us from pushing the boundary in our own lives.

Walter White manages to be real enough for us to relate to, yet risky enough for us to seldom attempt to replicate. The show as a whole is also unsettling in many respects, think about the fact that one of  your local fast food restaurants could be a meth enterprise?

But in all honesty, don’t most of us hope that a real Walter White does exist? We all love seeing a regular guy succeed, of course only when he is motivated by  extradordinary circumstances. What fascinates me is why we don’t perceive Walter White as the criminal he truly is at the end of the day. One might argue it’s because we know him,  we have an emotional connection. That’s a great point.

Hank though, despite his two decade long-relationship with Walt feels no sympathy in trying to bring Walt to justice. So why do we knowing Walt for considerably less time feel more for him than his own brother-in-law?  Especially considering all the crime shows the average American watches, wouldn’t it make more sense for us to identify with Hank as a detective?

I theorize it’s because the average American viewer respects Walt’s sheer genius. Sure his ability to cook is one thing, but his ability to build his drug empire fascinating to watch. I’m also willing to bet a lot of people like Gus Fring, probably because he was a briliant businessman and criminal. Gus and Walt share the same good intention. Walt wants to provide for his family, and Gus wants to bring his friend’s killers to justice (which according to him is murder). Does the end justify the means? In the minds of Americans, at least for Walt, it does. And as he breaks all the rules to do so, as viewers we become more and more impressed with him.

In Walt’s case the means overpower the endgame. I can conclude thus far that the reason this series is so successful is the fact that the audience is able to like someone so bad, so taboo. The show draws viewers in with a relatively good man as he develops though the viewer sees the logical progression. So even as bad as Walter becomes because the audience understands why he did what he did, they are able to root for him. He is a man who uncovers his hidden potential he’s had all this time. He’s a man with a dream that was crushed by a failed business endeavor previously and he found a way to gain fame and fortune decades later. Breaking Bad is the American Dream, Americans love the American Dream.

The real question now is will this American Dream  become a nightmare?