Everywhere, television is shutting down. In the US the Writers Guild of America strike has forced many shows to pause production and had a chilling effect on new commissions. And what TV commissioners have been funding was already changing: a decade long spending spree on costly shows for loss-making streaming services is coming to a definitive end. The Slate journalist Sam Adams has termed our current moment “trough TV”, the comedown from peak TV as commissioners take fewer risks. Netflix is clamping down on users sharing passwords, and junking lots of its catalogue. In the UK, the Channel 4 commissioner Ian Katz has warned of a commissioning freeze until at least the autumn. Last month’s Succession finale increasingly looks like the end of not just one series but a broadcasting epoch. It was certainly the end of my subscription to the platform it was released on.
Imperial but unloved, TV streaming feels analogous to dating apps over the last decade. A decade ago, online dating was a hack to access a conveyor belt of great options. Now, disillusionment with the apps is utterly widespread. Likewise, for the home viewer, eyeballs – and bank accounts – are divided between Netflix, Now TV, Disney+ and a plethora of smaller services such as MUBI, BFI Player and BritBox.