Traditional Television vs. Online Streaming: How the Web Changed Things


I like writing about how the Internet has changed how we used to do things. I am finding this to be very enjoyable and relaxing. I never really considered myself a writer because programming is writing for robots rather than people. So writing in a programming language is very direct and black and white, not so expressive or emotional like writing for people. Also, I just like stopping what I am doing and spend some time reflecting about the past and how things are so different now. This time, I am talking about how we watch what used to be TV is now practically online streaming. I do have a lot of say about this topic and want to compare the past and present and see if we are better off with today or if the past was better. Again, I have stated that this really depends on you and if you prefer before or after. I would like to start out with discussing how things used to work.

Traditional Television: How Things Used to Work Before the Internet

This is what we used to have and still might, traditional television. This is where we connected our television to something that provides service like cable. Then we just flip through a bunch of channels of what is currently on. Whatever was on at the time was on, you needed to know what was currently playing on each channel to find something interesting to watch. Unless you used something like a TV guide to know what is on every channel.  I canceled cable a long time ago because you had to watch things on a certain channel at a certain time, on a certain day. New episodes every week required you to be home to watch it if you wanted to keep following a story. This became difficult if you decided to do something else than watch the latest episode of your favorite show.  Every week is different so you might be available to watch your show or you might not be.

Flipping Through Channel and Finding Something Interesting

Sometimes if you had nothing to do, you would just channel surf until you found something good to watch. If you did, then you might have caught something that is right in the middle of an episode. So it would feel like watching a movie at the theaters and starting half-way through. Unless you really like the show, you might not care to watch half of an episode. If this was a show that you liked, there was no easy way to watch any past episodes back then. The reason why is that when a current season is running, it moves forward. Every week releases a new episode until the season ends. So you could not as easily go back and watch older episodes in order. This was not possible on TV so we could only move forward. This is one of the major changes that happened with the Internet that I will discuss later in this article.

I also remember spending hours just channel surfing and then just giving up. The good thing about channel surfing is that you end up watching new things that you never knew that you might be interested in. So this is good for getting exposure to new topics. Of course, that is only if you could watch all of the commercials in-between episodes. I feel like the commercials were longer back then because you could not skip them like you can today. Also, lives are faster today and we probably have little time to channel surf anymore like we could before. So it is actually nice that you can just look for exactly what you want and start watching.

Catching New Episodes Every Time: Same Day, Same Channel

Watching new episodes every week was a fun time. You just finished the current week’s episode and now you wait a whole week in anticipation for the next one. Back then, when we were more patient, this was normal. It was normal to wait that long and wonder what was going to happen in the next episode. This taught how to be patient and make it feel like we earn watching the next episode because we are not demanding the next episode right away. This is not really just about watching TV but about building our character and learning the difference between patience and demand. I wrote a couple of articles about how the web changed our lives and how we spend too much time online. Technology really did make up very demanding because lives are more pressure to produce faster. As I think about if society really traded patience for demand, it seems like it might be more the consequence of competition. Ever-growing competition makes us demand things to be done faster and being so impatient might not be something that we want. Rather, this became the result of competition. I want to switch gears and talk about how we watch TV today with online streaming.

Online Streaming: The Conveniences that the Web Brings

Here we are now, with online streaming, a completely different concept than before. Now we can search for things to watch, watch entire season episodes in a row and we of course have our commercials. I understand, if it is free online streaming then the advertisers need their revenue. If it is paid streaming, then the ads are either not there or very limited, or at least should be. I remember how long the commercials were on cable TV. I know that we all do not like commercials, but these were the times back then that we would use for breaks. We needed to step away from watching TV to take breaks and the commercials were the time to do that. Now we can just pause the video if we need to stop for a bit. This is nice now because we can take breaks whenever we want. Before you took breaks whenever it was time to show commercials. Sometimes commercials would come on at times that we did not need to take a break or we had to step away right in the middle of the show. With regards to breaks, online streaming is better since we have control over stopping and starting the streaming.

Watch Entire Show Seasons All At Once

Another feature that I like about online streaming is being able to watch season start to finish. There are a lot of old shows in the past that we would like to watch again. Online streaming makes reliving your past possible. I really enjoy this because a lot of old shows that we used to watch might have had a season or episode that we missed. Back then as I stated earlier, it was hard to catch all seasons and all episodes unless you were very diligent and punctual on watching every single episode of your favorite show. I also like browsing the list of seasons and knowing how many episodes there were and how the story changed through the seasons. I mentioned watching movies half-way through earlier and this is the one thing that made watching movies easier than TV. Movie sequels usually take at least a few years before they are released to the public. So it is much easier to follow the story in a movie than in a show because we are talking about every few years compared to every week.

The Issue with Expiring Licenses

This is something that I had an issue with Netflix when I used to be subscribed to it. I was watching some movies on it and was looking for the sequel. I did not know that some movies are only on Netflix for a limited amount of time. If the licenses for some movies are not renewed for another year, then they will disappear from the list. This is something that I was curious about because prices kept going up even when I was looking for movies to watch. This was unfortunate but it is what it is and we have to accept that this is just how the subscription works. This is why I said in another article about subscription “ownership” we never really own anything because anything connected to the Internet can change at any time. So we are left with an online streaming service that can change its roster every year and we have to be mindful about what we watch. We have to watch what we want before their license expires. At the time, I wished I had planned my movie watch queue better. I should have watched the movies in a series that were going to expire so I could catch the whole store in its entirety. Expiring licenses become something that you just have to get used to. From what I remember, this was not something that was clearly stated when using the service. I wish it had been though. I could have put watching movies that were not expiring soon further back on the watch list.

Exclusive Content Makes Online Streaming Expensive

This is another issue that I have with online streaming. There are some shows or movies that are only available on one streaming service. So if you want to see this exclusive content, then you need to have that service over the other one. Depending on how good the show is, this might be worth it. Remember back then when you had cable and most of the good shows were all on cable? You never need to go somewhere else to watch this good show or that other good show. Now, we have too many competing services and they offer exclusive shows that many of us want to catch. Before we just paid for just one service, cable. Now we have to pay for this service and this other service if we want to watch exclusive shows from both services, or even more for multiple services. Look at the bright side, we have choices now. With cable, you had to pay one price a month even if you just saw a few shows on it. At least now, we can choose what services we want and only have those ones. So we have better choices to help us better manage how much we pay for these services now. If we can get by with just a service or two then that is still cheaper than cable TV.

Cable TV versus Online Streaming, Which is Better?

Looking back, what is better? Cable TV or online streaming? In general, technology and the Internet has made life…faster. Better? Depends on how you look at it. I think that overall, at least now with online streaming, we have control over what we watch and when we want to watch it. We no longer have to channel surf like on cable TV, which can be a very time-consuming hassle. Imagine just flipping through channels for half-an-hour or more and feeling like you got nothing out of it. So I think that with our faster, busier lives today, online streaming is the way to go. So I think that I prefer online streaming over cable TV. Cable TV is just too inefficient when I look back at it. This was okay back then but now we just need to get to it and start already. Too much looking around for things to watch when a simple online search will get things done quickly.

So this has been a fun article to write. I hope that sharing my experience on how the Web has changed our lives has been not only an entertaining journey, but thought-provoking as well. I am sure that many of you have also lived during the same time that I have. We all were fortunate to grow up during a time where we can see how life has changed before and after the Internet. As someone who builds websites for a living, I am hoping that my background in information and programming is putting an interesting spin on these articles that I write. I know that these are pretty common topics that everyone already knows about. When I put my spin on them, they might be something different from another perspective that you have not seen before. I am starting to gather a decent list of article so feel free to browse around or search for topics on this website.

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