The Future Of Streaming Will Look A Lot Like The Present Of Streaming
1:55 PM EDT on October 3, 2023
Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we're talking about three little pigs, linebackers, living in a simulation, Tayvis, and more.
Before we get into the bag, I have to tell you that The Distraction live show in Brooklyn—featuring guest Rohan Nadkarni—is WEDNESDAY. That’s right. The day is nigh. We’re achingly close to being sold out, so please get your tickets here [Pacino voice] right now. Otherwise, you’ll spend the rest of your life full of unending sorrow.
And if you DO come? Well I promise that we’re gonna put on a goddamn show for you. We don’t fuck around.
Got that? Good. Your letters:
Amidst the cuts in programming and the increase in prices across the streaming landscape, it appears that streaming has become cable, with the only noticeable difference that on-demand is a better option than a DVR. Has streaming really jumped the shark this quickly?
I’ve been thinking about this ever since my boy Vince Mancini tweeted a similar thought to Jamoosh’s a month ago. Under normal circumstances, “Can we all just admit ____?” is the worst genre of tweet. I fucking hate it when random assholes online put their opinions in everyone else’s mouth. But this tweet was different because A) I like Vince, and B) The streaming model is clearly broken. It was broken before the WGA and SAG went on strike over it, and it remains so.
Of all the streaming services out there, only one, Netflix, currently turns a profit, and Netflix is still $14 billion in debt. The rest have either become loss leaders for larger media conglomerates, or are off-brand services named Lubu. All of them are getting more expensive and more scant in available titles, to the point where Netflix and Max feel more like premium channel add-ons to a basic cable package than anything you’d want as the sole entrée in your media diet.
This is the result of a collective lack of vision (oh, and a steadfast unwillingness to pay artists what they’re worth). Once cord-cutting became a defining feature of the market, every head of every media company was like, “Let’s start our own Netflix!” without any real grasp of the cost, the production load, or consumer preferences. It became a race for market share between headless chickens, many of whom have staked their entire streaming model on a single title (Stranger Things for Netflix, Yellowstone for Paramount Plus, etc.) or franchise property (everything on Disney+). I had better selection at Blockbuster Video on a Friday night than what these services are offering.
As a consumer, all I’m looking for is the ability to watch what I’d like to watch for a reasonable price. We have the technology to do that now. A genuine dreamscape. Instead, what I’ve gotten is a herky-jerky arrangement where everything I’d like to see has been cordoned off behind a series of frayed curtains, and I have to pay $22 a month for a look behind each of them. I can’t go back to cable, because it’s hideously expensive and has nothing to offer outside of live sports. And I can’t cut the cord entirely because no streaming service has an expansive enough catalog. Many, like Max, are actively cutting old titles because they don’t bring in new customers the way that, say, The Last of Us might. And they’re adding on live sports and testing out breaking news alerts during scripted programming to mimic the feel of cable TV without actually being cable TV. Again, there’s no vision here. All of these companies are pissing in the dark and hoping to hear a splash.
And all of them—especially the ones that are NOT behemoths like Amazon or Apple that don’t even need to be in this business at all if they don’t feel like it—are starting to pay dearly for it. One of more of these streamers will either go bust soon, bundle their shit with other streamers (that’s already being discussed), or get purchased on the cheap by Google. There will be a mass consolidation, the same way there’s always been with media companies. When that happens, there’ll only be two or three varsity streamers left. All of them will cost $60 a month, and all of them will have some live TV component to go with their on-demand shit. That’s probably as good as it’ll get. The perfect streaming model will never exist. Given the way Hollywood is run, it was never destined to.
As for me, I’d just like to see To Live And Die In LA without having to buy the DVD.
I don't know this for sure, but I imagine that the end-zone-fumble-turnover rule is to prevent people from purposefully “fumbling” near the end zone while getting tackled, in hopes that another teammate will jump on the ball.
That’s almost rational, except that no team is ever going to purposefully fumble the ball when we know that fumble recoveries are an analytical coin flip. It’s too dangerous, especially in the end zone where both the offense and the defense are all crowded next to one another. Are you really gonna run a secret Fumblerooski instead of a QB sneak? Even Josh McDaniels isn’t that stupid.
What the hell is the deal with the three little pigs? Is the upshot just that brick is better for building than sticks or straw? Because that's a weird impetus for such a hugely popular children's story. Is it really so important a lesson that the whole country needed to be indoctrinated by age three?
Pretty much, yes. Unless you’re doing a bit with this question, in which case I’m lightly irritated.
But let’s take your question at face value, because my rule for this column is to answer every question seriously, no matter how silly it may be. It’s the three little pigs. It’s not the Hitler Youth course catalog. It’s a basic lesson in how to build a sturdy house so that the Big Bad Wolf won’t come and eat you. That’s valuable information for preschoolers who fear big bad wolves, and who also have only started to learn what the world is and how it works. You teach kids the alphabet and numbers, of course, but you also have to teach them about things, because they do not know what many things are, or what they’re for. So you have to teach them all of that rudimentary shit. This is a stove in your kitchen. It gets hot when you turn it on. This is a stoplight that tells cars when they should stop and when they can go. This is a load of bricks. You build things with these things so that a wolf can’t blow them down with his powerful, malodorous wolf breath.
All of this is good, practical learning. It’s not some nefarious plot by BIG CONTRACTING to get kids to buy more HardiePlank, so let’s not use this story to go off on some college-kid shit. I get enough of that from social media already: “Money isn’t real!” etc. Wank wank.
Also, if not for the three little pigs, we wouldn’t have been blessed with the greatest music video in history, so put some respect on the third little pig’s name.
Why is it linebacker not lineback? All the other positions are just backs. Quarterback, halfback, cornerback, etc. Why does the linebacker get the suffix?
Because they’re backing the defensive line. That’s different from the other “-back” positions, which describe the player’s literal position on the field as opposed to what the player’s job entails. I know that’s technical to the point of being annoying, but read the names again. A quarterback is a quarter back of the line of scrimmage (except if he’s in shotgun, but that formation didn’t exist back when the name was coined). The fullback used to be all the way back behind the line until they evolved to switch places with the halfback. A cornerback is set back on the corner of the defense.
But a linebacker is actively backing up the line in front of him, so it gets the “-er” suffix for that reason. The job description is in the name, same as it is with “kicker” and “punter” and “punt returner.” I love parsing language (but not tweets) in this kind of detail. Not sarcasm. It’s fun to get into the nuts and bolts of how language works. So by all means, ask me more weird shit like this.
I'm confused about the concept that we're living in a simulation. Am I in my own simulation, with my wife, son, colleagues, friends and you all simulated? Or are my wife, son, colleagues, friends, you and I all real, and everything we're experiencing together is the simulation? Or are you, someone I've never actually seen, the simulation and all of us are playing into your simulated plan?
The “simulation argument” posits that everything in the known universe, including ourselves, is a computer simulation. It’s a sister theory to the “We’re living in a hologram” argument, which posits that we exist in a two-dimensional skein that’s part of a greater, three-dimensional universe that we cannot perceive (this does not mean we’re all flat like Wile E. Coyote getting run over by a steamroller; it’s more nuanced than that). Both ideas are all-inclusive, not unlike a Sandals resort. They encompass all that we know and see. They don’t say this person is a simulation but this person is not. Then we’d be getting into theories that are more divine than they are scientific.
If you’ve taken in a steady diet of sci-fi over your lifetime, theories like this can conjure visions of the body farms in The Matrix and all of that other dystopian shit. But these are theories. Hardly any scientist agrees with them. Also, they’re an attempt to glean an answer to the Big Questions, which both science and the church have been trying to answer for millennia: an effort to understand what the universe, at its very foundation, is made of. And it’s always better to be curious about the answer to that and not terrified by it. Even if scientists were able to prove that we’re all living in a simulation, it doesn’t change the reality around you or me, and it only fucks with your head as much as you would like it to. As with the origins of football position names, I find all of this shit fascinating. Even more so after I’ve popped a gummy.
Are you impressed by an adult completing a jigsaw puzzle? I'm sure there are jigsaw wizards who can finish them scary-quick, but I'm talking about a regular person finishing one in a regular-person amount of time. Even if it's, like, 10,000 pieces and all one color, fundamentally you're just kind of sitting down and guessing what might fit together until you're done. You don't need to be clever. You just need a normal-adult amount of patience. Or am I being too optimistic about what a "normal-adult amount of patience" is?
You’re totally overestimating normal levels of human patience. You ever SEEN a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle, Peter? I’d rather work in a coal mine. I barely have the patience to put a sandwich together, much less something with 10,000 pieces. No one has that much patience besides the elderly and the insane.
HOWEVER, I have done jigsaw puzzles of lesser sizes (usually while on vacation), and I don’t do them to show off. The next photo of a completed jigsaw I post online will be the first. I finish a jigsaw puzzle for my own satisfaction, not anyone else’s. It’s the same rush I get from finishing off a house project, or from a good day’s work. You are given a problem to solve, and then you solve it. Once you’re done, you and your compatriots get to revel in your work: a finished puzzle, a newly assembled coffee table, a garden in full bloom, etc. You don’t need anyone else’s approval or fanfare in this moment. Your newfound pride in what you’ve accomplished is more than enough. I love a job well done.
Shit, now I really wanna do a jigsaw puzzle. But not a super big one, and not all one color. That would suck. Just a normal puzzle.
What are the chances that the Travis Kelce-Taylor Swift relationship is a worked shoot by the NFL to build up to the release of the “C(r)ool Summer Kelc-y Meal” at McDonald’s in 2024?
A hundred percent. It’s a worked shoot right down to the wardrobe choices. They cut right from Chiefs-Jets to an ad for the Eras documentary on Sunday night, and that’s not because Roger Goodell is just so darn happy that Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift are in love. They even stuck the State Farm asshole in the luxury box with Kelce’s mom during an Eagles game, so I think you know the deal here. To beat the Chiefs on Sunday, the Vikings clearly must get T.J. Hockenson to start fake dating Olivia Rodrigo, with Nike as their sponsor.
The rule of thumb for stories like Tayvis is to always assume it’s a brand stunt until proven otherwise. I haven’t seen any such proof yet, and I won’t. What, you think Taylor Swift LOVES this boob? With Tom Brady back out on the open market? I don’t think so. I haven’t even seen Taylor Swift KISS Travis Kelce. Fucking Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was realer than this shit. That concert film comes out in two weeks and the (Taylor’s version) of 1989 comes out two weeks after that. Once all the juice is out of this orange, expect tasteful breakup statements from Taylor's and Travis’ respective PR firms. She’d rather go back to fucking John Mayer than ever touch him.
By the way, I have no deep familiarity with the Swiftie population, but I have to think that there’s a subset within that fanbase that’s gone the full Italian mom and just wants Taylor to settle down. They’re definitely picky about her taste in men, but they still want her to find The One. Like when People magazine readers used to want Jennifer Aniston to land a husband. So when are you gonna give @thissickbeat420 grandchildren Taylor, huh? Clock’s ticking, girl.
I'm just curious, since I've never really heard you opine on him one way or the other, what are your thoughts and/or feelings about Nikola Jokic?
My opinion of Nikola Jokic is that I wish I could watch him play more often. Right now, he plays on a team whose regular season games usually tip at 9 p.m. EST, and his playoff games don’t tip off much earlier. This is a pity for me, a man around whom the rest of our simulated universe ought to revolve.
Because every time I have gotten to see Jokic play, I’ve been mesmerized. The ball barely touches his hands before he’s zipped it back to an open man. He’s got softer hands than Chris Webber and the court vision of LeBron. It’s fucking magic, and no athlete in history looks LESS capable of it than him. It’d be like if Bryant Reeves had possessed Magic Johnson’s passing touch. So I love watching Nikola Jokic play basketball. I just need him to do it much, much earlier in the day.
Jamal Murray is cool as shit, too. I have no beef with the Denver Nuggets.
What are the delineations between levels of sports fandom? I feel nonfan is one end of the spectrum and homer is the other, but what differentiates a casual fan from a regular fan? A diehard from a homer?
Ninety percent of all sports arguments are just fans accusing other fans of not being on their level of fandom. But, to a certain extent, it’s all bullshit, isn’t it? I know a lot about pro football, but nowhere to the degree that someone who plays it or coaches it for a living does. I’m just indulging in a bit of self-delusion, with a few Mina Kimes tweets and J.T. O’Sullivan vids as my threadbare credentials. I’m not BETTER than some area mom who only tunes in if her local team makes the playoffs, but it’s fun when I pretend to be. All of this shit is just fronting. That’s what makes it hella cool.
So with that in mind, here are some fan tiers for Christian:
Casual fan: Watches some games, especially playoff games, but doesn’t feel the need to watch every game, or know much beyond what the TV people say (this is me with baseball).
Homer (bandwagon version): Only watches the home team, and usually only when they’re good.
Homer (Philadelphia version): Watches every home team game, buys all the merch, is only interested in other teams as a way of bringing the conversation back to their own team.
Diehard: Watches every game they can, breaks down the All-22 and shit.
SUPER diehard: Is Ron Jaworski.
Some alphabet agency recently approved lab-grown chicken. I'm not sure what they approved it for, but I'll assume it's for eating. We can't be too far away from lab grown human body parts, which is great for amputees, but even better for us wannabe cannibals. Drew, do you look forward to the opportunity to taste human flesh?
Are you fucking kidding me? I wouldn’t eat lab-grown human flesh. I prefer my brains organic, thank you very much. Who knows what kind of harmful chemicals might in a GMO foot stew, you know what I mean? I want my human body parts sourced ethically, god dammit. Desk-to-table only!
In all seriousness though, I would absolutely eat lab-grown chicken, beef, lamb, you name it. I don’t give a shit as long as it tastes good. I still eat Beyond Meat and NO ONE knows how they make that product, not even the company that owns it. The label says “pea protein,” but for all I know they ground up a baby and called it vegan. Mmmmm… that’s good baby.
By contrast, my wife is a stickler about reading ingredient labels and avoid foods that have lots of chemicals, refined sugars, etc. She even gets on me for drinking oat milk that has chemicals in it, and I’m like girl it’s fucking OAT MILK. The lamest shit in the world! It’s not heroin! Leave me alone! (We’ve had genuine arguments over this.) So I do not share her compunction about artificial ingredients. Mine is a life than has been lived in processed foodstuffs: Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls, Doritos, Pringles, Spree, Bac-Os, Count Chocula, etc. If it has xanthan gum in it, I’ve welcomed it into my body gleefully. I have no idea where any of this shit is made, or how. Don’t even want to know. The mystery is what gives it extra flavor. So grow me a disembodied pork belly in a lab and serve it to me raw. I’m not turning that down.
We downsized not long ago. We gutted the kitchen, putting in new appliances. My wife set up cabinet lighting and voice commands. "Stovetop, set the large burner to level 7." “Moen, pour 2 1/3 teaspoons of water" "Alexa, I'm leaving." All the lights go out on their own, even if I'm in a room with a light on. And the fridge has a built in TV, should anyone not be able to make it to three other TVs in an 1800-square foot home. I'm just wondering: What's the etiquette for conversing with appliances? I'm tactile. Sometimes I just want to turn off the light without using up energy to tell Alexa anything.
I don’t own an Alexa hub, or any other voice command assistant. I use Google Assistant on my TV because it came with the TV, and because it’s easier to search for shows using my voice than tapping around the on-screen keypad. But otherwise, I am an appliance luddite. I don’t want a smart home, because I don’t need one. I know how to flick a light switch on and off (and, as Scott noted, there’s tactile pleasure to be had from it). I know how to set a timer for an oven. If I want to look at a screen while hanging out by the fridge, there’s a phone right in my pocket. Smart home appliances are showroom bells and whistles: things that help sell a product but that consumers never end up actually using except when they wanna dazzle company. Same deal with the parking assist function on my car. I never use it. I’m frankly scared to. Real Maximum Overdrive scenarios could result.
Now if they ever rolled out an affordable robot butler, that did my laundry and washed my dishes and shit? I’m on that. That’s a solid product. Quit fucking about with Twitter, Elon, and make me a slave droid.
I've toyed with the idea of giving up the drink. I'm in my 40s now. The hangovers are worsening, my cholesterol is very bad, and I could lose 30 lbs. Unfortunately, it's a big part of my social life and I also enjoy it at home while watching TV after the family goes to bed. I've gone a couple months at a time, and have been a little underwhelmed at the results. I always expect it will be life-changing, and that I'll wake up each morning jumping out of bed ready to greet the day and be clear-headed at all times. As somebody who had a hard stop that's lasted over a year, what say you? Wish you had quit sooner? Miss it like hell and are miserable? Not a big difference?
PS—Weed doesn't do it for me, even though I live somewhere it's legal and definitely socially acceptable.
I can only speak for myself here, but the grand revelation of sobriety for me was that it wasn’t life changing. Because unlike Kelly, I feared it changing my life. My life would be less fun, more stressful, and less of a party. I’d have no escape from the ennui of everyday existence. I didn’t expect sobriety to have the opposite effect, where I’d suddenly feel like a god. I just thought it would suck.
It didn’t, and that was more than enough.
So my advice to you, Kelly, is to recalibrate your expectations for sobriety. You’re still gonna be you when you stop drinking, and you have to accept the sheer ordinariness of that result. You’ll start off bored (or underwhelmed, as you put it), and then days will pass and you’ll slowly adjust to your new circumstances. It won’t be instant, because no learning curve ever is. It won’t always be gratifying. But if you go in expecting the world, it’ll just drive you back to alcohol that much more quickly. You clearly want to quit booze, and you laid out good reasons for it. So outline what you’d like to achieve by abstaining. You want fewer hangovers, lower cholesterol, and a lower BMI. Those are all easily attained, so long as you give it time.
As for me, I don’t wish I’d quit drinking sooner, because I mostly enjoyed the time I had with booze. But I don’t miss it, because I feel healthier and because I haven’t had a hangover in five years. I felt awkward in bars at the very beginning, but then I got used to it because A) I always made sure to have a non-alcoholic drink in my hand, because that was a large part of feeling “normal” in a social setting for me, B) Every bar has nondrinkers in it now. It’s not weird to be sober anymore. Many restaurants have entire mocktail sections on the menu. The company behind Athletic near-beer is valued at $500 million right now, and that beer tastes good. You don’t have to feel like a freak just because you’re not loaded, and people won’t treat you like one so long as you’re not in some shitty bro joint.
You’ll still have the same stresses and problems that you had back when you were drinking, but at least you’ll be lucid enough to actually tackle them rather than go crawling to a bottle to avoid ever dealing with them. Sobriety is work, but it’s satisfying work. Not unlike doing a puzzle.
Email of the week!
I saw your oven timer bit in the last Funbag and I have a comparable problem. My stove, a fancy induction stove, also has a timer that displays only minutes until the very last one. But my beef with this fickle piece of machinery is the opposite of yours. Imagine I’m boiling pasta and setting the timer for them to be al dente. I’m looking at the thing and it says two minutes, I feel like I have all the time in the world to get the sauce or the cheese or do something else. Then all of a sudden I blink and it shows 57 seconds, and then I immediately switch to Lethal Weapon car bomb defuser mode.
Oh yeah, the pressure’s on when those seconds appear. I know that feeling all too well.