Television played an interesting role in my life. Of course, as a toddler I had my favorite shows – I even had a ‘Barney’ doll that I would sit with any time Barney and Friends came on. However, as I got older, I stopped watching TV as much. With a dad and an older brother who didn’t share my television tastes, I preferred to read books instead or watch the odd movie with them. As the Internet got more extensive, streaming movies and TV shows became easy. It opened a world of viewing without commercial breaks, and I loved it. 

In 2007, Netflix became an online streaming service, launching ‘Watch Now’, tying online streaming with their DVD subscriptions. Though Netflix may not have been the first one to enter the game, they are definitely the first ones to be globally successful. Netflix is now a $100-billion company with thousands of titles and is a global phenomenon. Netflix’s streaming service is easily affordable – a basic plan is $9 a month – offers a seemingly unlimited list of movies and TV shows, and is ad-free.

Commercial breaks have become a thing of the past. Tuning in at a specific time to catch a movie is so old-school. The era of speed-cooking to make snacks during a commercial break so you don’t miss the movie is looked at with fondness and nostalgia. 

Scrolling through channels to catch the second half of a random episode that’s filled with commercials is no longer my cup of tea.

Youtuber Drew Gooden made an interesting video on cable TV. He mainly discusses American TV and compares the prices between cable and various streaming services. I have to be honest, cable TV doesn’t seem as wacky here (Dubai) as it does in America, but that’s a personal opinion.

What fascinated me was how expensive cable TV has become. It’s a $100 monthly subscription, with set-up fees and remote control fees attached to your monthly bill. What’s more, is that cancelling a subscription is difficult and so time-consuming. Cable TV tends to show movies and TV shows that are found on streaming services anyway. TV may be good for sports, like FIFA and the Superbowl, or particular events or game shows, but is it worth the added charges to watch a yearly event? Not really, particularly because more games and sports are accessible online. Hotstar in India, for example, has football and cricket matches alongside HBO shows and Disney+. 

Here in the UAE, cable TV becomes a required addition when you sign up for faster Internet because there aren’t many Internet providers available. Honestly speaking, there are two. You learn to compromise. Cable TV here is around AED 100 a month, with ‘additional charges’. Streaming services, on the other hand, are much cheaper. Netflix in Dubai is AED 30 per month, Amazon Prime is AED 16 per month, and Disney+OSN is AED 35 per month. Getting three streaming services is cheaper than cable, and most people tend to share accounts with friends and family. I know I share Netflix and Prime accounts with others, along with Disney+. 

The internet is prevalent and is vital, regardless of streaming or not.

From my experiences, streaming services have resulted in most people cutting the chord on or ignoring cable TV for the most part. Parents and older generations, too, use Netflix and Amazon Prime. Cable TV used to be more appealing to my parents because they have regional-specific shows (can’t get enough of Malayalee movies). Prime and Netflix, however, added Indian, and particularly Malayalam, TV shows and movies to their roster, so my parents have now turned to that instead. It’s much better for me, too, because subtitles are included (my Malayalam is not that great). It’s fun for my parents because they don’t spend an hour watching commercial breaks, and because they can pause and pick up where they left off days later. I honestly can’t remember how I used to tolerate commercial breaks every few minutes, whenever I sit down and try to watch cable TV. Scrolling through channels to catch the second half of a random episode that’s filled with commercials is no longer my cup of tea. I’d much rather scroll through Prime and re-watch The Office, thank you very much.

Streaming services are cheaper, more reliable, easier to use, and more convenient. They also have a staggeringly wide collection that appeals to a global audience. I know Netflix has helped fuel a K-drama obsession with my cousins, and I’ve watched more Indian movies now than I ever have before.  This feels like the golden age of television, with so many incredible TV shows being released. From Succession to Peaky Blinders to Game of Thrones (bar the ending) to sitcoms like Schitt’s Creek and The Good Place, TV is getting really good. The only difference is, it’s not on cable anymore. Streaming services have helped create some incredible shows, combining quality with ease of access.

The internet is prevalent and is vital, regardless of streaming or not. Might as well use it to its highest potential – watching Hamilton and singing along for the 18th time. 

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Natalia Ahmed

By Natalia Ahmed

Editorial Fellow