It’s weeks like these where a sort of TV socialism seems appealing. How great is the free market anyway?
TLC is making a bet on a reality show with Pete Rose, a sign that series with cameras trailing outré characters aren’t going anywhere. Viewers all over the place can’t watch networks as programmers and distributors blame each other for blackouts. And, the rush of Olympic-oriented commercialism is starting to build towards unavoidability starting next week.
It makes one pine for the BBC. Would the broadcaster air a reality series featuring an odd cricket star about to get married to a decades-younger girlfriend? Its various channels don’t go off the air when a company that earned $4.6 billion in profit (DirecTV) last year can’t agree with one that had $3.7 billion (Viacom). And, there are no ads and no insulting product placements.
The cost: less than $20 a month. The citizens of the U.K. fund the BBC by paying that amount, which will remain the same through 2016. (To be fair, the 20% of Americans with broadcast-only service pay less, though watch ads.)
BBC programming seems to offer something for everyone from the U.K. version of the “The Voice” to impressive documentaries, including co-productions with the Discovery Channel, to plenty of top-tier sports.
There was some talk that the Olympics would move at least partly off the BBC starting in 2014. But Wednesday, it was announced the Beeb had landed TV, digital and radio rights to the Games through 2020.
All of the events will be “free-to-air." So unlike in the U.S., a home without pay-TV service won’t have to worry about missing favorite events on NBCUniversal outlets such as USA, Bravo or CNBC. And, BBC viewers will be able to watch online without going through the effective NBCU paywall.
To top it off, viewers won’t run the risk of sickness from watching the same ads – no matter how stirring – over and over from the likes of Citi, GM and P&G. Actually, they won’t have to watch any ads from anyone. Capitalism does have some downsides.