Television has always been a drug -- metaphorically speaking. What you probably didn't know was that the modern process of getting TV programs can be equally as addicting, according to Lauren Zalaznick, president, women & lifestyle entertainment networks for NBC Universal.
"I think the phrase for the future is that these kids are addicted to choice, right," she said at Media magazine's "Future of Media" event.
"And if you can capture an addiction in society, you're the pusher man, right? The old adage of the schoolyard is, you give them a little taste for free and then you've got them," she said. "So I think right now, we are testing giving them a little taste for free, but they are addicted to 'The Office,' so they've got to buy it on Hulu."
Many TV analysts have noted that TV networks would first offer TV programs for free online -- and then gradually make viewers pay for it. The only difference is that networks didn't announce all this three years ago.
For years, kids craved MTV programming, especially videos. But kids like change, actually. Lots of it. In recent years, MTV lost a lot of its younger fans. Only this past year has MTV revived ratings-wise, with "Jersey Shore" and other shows.
The addiction metaphor doesn't always work. So much TV content means never means having to go through any real withdrawal. You might be missing "Jericho" or "Chuck," but there is always another electronic drug of choice.
We are reminded of teenagers ringing up hundreds or thousand of dollars in mobile phone usage. (All you can eat plans have helped curtail this).
Now worried parents might discover monthly pay-TV bills of hundreds or thousands of dollars because their kids are buying up $30 "premium VOD" movies, regular pay-per-view films, Apple TV rentals, or Hulu Plus monthly TV packages.
The process of "choice" -- getting it via, Netflix, iTunes, Hulu Plus, paying for it and no longer free -- is a means to an end. Addicted to content? That doesn't sound so bad. Addicted to "choice"? Get me in rehab.