Modern TV

Although Douglas Rushkoff hangs his story off How NFTs Will Kill Netflix on a particularly shiny/grubby bit of modern technology, the real issue is more about how consumers will react to having to chase their favourite TV shows from app to app, from subscription to subscription:1

A new world of NFT-based media may liberate us all to watch just the things we want. No more Netflix or Amazon subscription; I just buy my NFT version of a show via blockchain, straight from the creator. But it’s going to make for an almost unfathomably vast, unnavigable sea of individual offerings. It’s hard enough to find things now. And if we need to make a monetary choice every time we do the digital equivalent of flipping the channel — or maybe after a short preview — it turns an evening of viewing or reading into a series of purchasing decisions.

Plus, if every artist is out on their own, what happens to that feeling of content neighborhoods, a channel’s personality, a magazine’s perspective, or even a posse of artists? It’s an entropic extreme of every creator for themself. […]

Which gets to the heart of how I feel about Apple TV+. Since yesterday I’ve already watched the season finale of Foundation 2 and the latest episode of Invasion 3 and before the weekend is over I’ll have watched the next episodes of The Morning Show and Swagger and possibly Dr. Brain and Finch.

I can’t help but think that in the end those are stories from the various showrunners that happen to be funded and distributed by Apple TV+ because Apple offered the best deal for the producers, rather than shows that Apple TV+ are responsible for shaping and bringing to our screens and which are guided by a common sensibility. Obviously as an outsider I have no clue whether the showrunners are going to be telling tales in their memoirs about how helpful Apple TV+ was in shaping their projects, or going the other way and complaining that they had to fight off emails from Tim Cook urging them to keep it PG-13 4 or unhelpful casting suggestions, but at this early stage in the life of Apple TV+ it’s unlikely showrunners are going to be telling tales about the downsides of working with Apple TV+ when the company are still a very deep-pocketed potential source of funding.

It’s almost as if some whizzkid entrepreneur needs to invent the idea of a streaming service that brings together a bunch of shows under one banner and let viewers see shows that match their idea of fun. They could call it a "TV station," maybe?


  1. Possibly too late-breaking to be included in Rushkoff’s story, see also the way European Star Trek fans are going to have to chase down Star Trek: Discovery now it’s moved from Netflix to Paramount’s as-yet-unavailable-outside-the-US streaming platform just days before season four launches. I’ve enjoyed the first three seasons of Star Trek: Discovery, but I’m not sure I’ll bother adding yet another subscription service/app to my monthly roster. As with Succession season 3, another show I enjoyed but which is on a service I don’t subscribe to any more, I’m content to add Star Trek: Discovery to the list of shows that I’ll catch up with some day if I get a chance but won’t lose sleep over not seeing as it unfolds. It’ll be a shame not to follow events alongside the US audience and to end up searching for discussions of the twists and turns and plot developments a couple of years after they’ve gone cold, but that’s not really any different to following US shows that ended up exclusively on SkyTV in the UK only to show up on their associated terrestrial TV outlets well after they were old news to satellite TV viewers.5 
  2. A real curate’s egg of a show. The Terminus storyline, while mapping onto Asimov’s overall direction, is taking huge liberties with Asimov’s story and not in itself all that gripping. The story of the triple-headed Cleon dynasty is almost entirely invented from whole cloth and is the best thing about the show. 
  3. I respect the showrunners’ willingness to keep our focus on the fates of a small number of survivors scattered across the planet, but when the world is being rocked by a first contact that seems to have gone very, very badly for a large portion of the human race I’m not sure that keeping us in the dark about the bigger picture is such a great idea. Perhaps in season five I’m destined to look back and recognise the wisdom of this approach because I’ll be blown away by the scope of the story they’ve laid out for us, but that makes the assumptions that a) I’m still going to be watching come season five, and b) that the showrunners are still getting money to produce the show at that point in the story. 
  4. In fairness, that whole producers-gettingemails-from-TimCook furore early on doesn’t seem to have been borne out by the output of Apple TV+. I’ve not seen anything on Apple TV+ that would look out of place on terrestrial TV, but that’s just the nature of most of modern TV, trying to avoid putting off any more of the audience than it must while telling the story it wants to tell. 
  5. The likes of Eureka , Fringe and the various later Stargate series come to mind. Chewy speculative fiction, good genre fun often with lots of opportunities for fun crossovers with similar shows, but not major brands in themselves. (Though goodness knows the Stargate brand keeps on trying to be reborn before the SG-1 main cast age out of their former starring roles.) 

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