I pay a lot of money for cable television because I love it. Well, not all of it--I don't part with my hard earned green because I want my MTV--at least not anymore. I want my HBO. And I want first access to all the other fine programs that the other networks offer. Mad Men, Rescue Me, True Blood, Entourage, Dexter, Weeds, Breaking Bad. I don't only want my favorite networks, I love them and my favorite shows with all of my heart, and cable makes it easy, so I've been married to cable for decades.
But every viewer knows to fall in love with a high quality show only at your own peril. Networks can be bad boyfriends, canceling even the most critically acclaimed series if they don't score the ratings they desire. Like NBC dumping the exceptional Friday Night Lights, almost leaving the Panthers dangling on the railroad tracks...until...it was rescued by DIRECTV. NBC struck a cost-leveraging deal with the satellite provider giving their Access Network channel first run of the new season episodes, which then later were aired on NBC for non-satellite viewers. Touchdown with a strong assist!
Courtesy of DirectTV
Damages, the highly acclaimed legal thriller starring Glenn Close and Rose Byrne, has been a favorite of mine through three harrowing seasons. There's a lot to love about Damages. Each season delves into a major story featuring stellar actors (Ted Danson was amazing!) that is the backdrop to the thrilling cat-and-mouse game of a high-stakes mentorship gone ballistic. Glenn Close's complex portrayal of one of the most interesting and powerful characters on television is phenomenal; she alone makes Damages required viewing for me.
FX had developed a treasure, but after three seasons they decided ratings didn't match the costs. Damages looked doomed, tied to the railroad tracks...until...our heroes Sony and DIRECTV saved they day again, singing deals that assured at least two more seasons! Season 4 was a go, and in addition to the return of Close and Byrne, the most amazing John Goodman joined to be featured in the new storyline. Death sentence verdict successfully appealed! Saved, just like Friday Night Lights!
Unlike the Friday Night Lights/NBC deal, FX is out of the picture. Damages is airing exclusively on DIRECTV, in a non-commercial-break format making the presentation similar to HBO. There is no re-airing deal for FX or for any other cable network.
So while Damages lives on with a new season that started earlier this month, that means no Damages for me or other cable viewers, at least for many months until Season 4 ends and is (hopefully) released on DVD.
I'm sad to be missing Patty's every move, week-by-week in first airing/prime time, but maybe that is an old way of thinking. These new leveraged deals are fascinating developments in content production and distribution. Does it matter any more where and when new content is released, just as long as good content is afforded somehow? Digital sharing is pushing changes in all directions, and we are seeing new models unfold before us.
It does mean that I may have to rethink my reliance on cable as the major vein of my digital delivery. But we've been married for so long now, change will be difficult. I know it's coming, but it will be full of difficult changes. Damages, even.
Are you a Damages or Friday Night Lights fan? What do you think about DIRECTV's play for quality television content production and distribution?
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