CBS All Access and the changing TV landscape

Henry Bendon

Just recently, CBS launched a reboot of the early sci-fi classic “Twilight Zone.” The network invested a lot of time and money into the show. Jordan Peele hosts the show, and the actors scattered across the first four episodes include heavyweights such as Adam Scott and Kumail Nanjiana, and although reviews aren’t universally celebratory both the New York Times and NPR have indicated it’s worth a watch. But you’re not going to watch it.

“The Twilight Zone” is a CBS All Access show. It’s the second big name science fiction franchise included on All Access—“Star Trek: Discovery” was the first—but even the draw of two marquee franchises and the smooth and user-friendly interface All Access supports isn’t enough to justify adding a singular network to your monthly expenses on a college budget.

All Access is available with advertisements for $5.99 a month or commercial-free for $9.99. Definitely choose commercial-free if you’re using the free trial period to binge season two of “Discovery,” which comes to a close in two weeks. On its own, the low pricing makes it seem like a potential bargain.

Except, and this is true for every other network or studio-based service, its content is limited to only the material the network produces. Networks have looked at the success of services such as HBO and Netflix and many seem to have determined that it’s time to carve out a share of the market for themselves. Soon, there will be too many competitive streaming options to count.

As it stands now, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon own the advantage for breadth and value: all three have their own studios but don’t limit themselves to in-house content. Netflix created its dominant market share in no small part due to its licensing of popular shows like “The Office” and “Psych.”

Now, studios are challenging Netflix with big budgets and talented showrunners. But by hiding these shows behind paywalls and attempting to use them to launch internal networks, they’re preventing viewers from exploring quality content and spreading the market too thin. This makes some sense for premium cable companies: no one is expecting HBO to drop the barriers around HBO Go because consumers already pay to get HBO.

But CBS is a legacy broadcast network, one whose commercial-based shows have historically been available based solely on the advertisement revenue they earn by showing programs on television. Keeping all kinds of quality content locked away where only people willing to pay $10 a month for a single network may be their novel approach to the new media landscape, but it’s bad for consumers and bad for television.

Television: 2 stars