The Streaming Revolution’s Irony: How YouTube TV and Other Streaming Services Are Becoming What They Set Out to Destroy

It’s a cruel irony of our modern internet age that the very streaming services that were supposed to herald the end of the outdated cable and satellite TV industry are now becoming the very thing they set out to destroy. Services like YouTube TV, Sling TV, and others which once promised to liberate viewers from the tyranny of limited channel selections and oppressive contracts, are now imposing their own limitations.

At the heart of this irony lies a fundamental truth about the nature of capitalism: no industry can survive long without finding a way to make a profit. Streaming services like YouTube TV were once seen as disruptors, offering viewers an alternative to the bloated, outdated cable and satellite industry. But as these services grew in popularity and began to attract more viewers, they also began to attract more scrutiny from their investors.

As a result, we are now seeing a new form of tyranny emerge in the streaming industry. Companies like YouTube TV are beginning to impose their own limitations on viewers, forcing millions to pay for channels they never wanted and would never watch. It’s not just YouTube TV. The monumental stupidity of Sling TV’s billing policies cannot be overstated. I was once naïve enough to believe that paying in advance using gift cards for my stand-alone Willow HD channel would allow me to also add a standard package and use my credit balance to pay for both subscriptions until the balance was depleted. Alas, Sling TV proved itself to be the antithesis of user-friendly, as my credit balance was relegated to being tied up solely in the Willow HD subscription until it runs out later this year.

That’s not to say people are going back to traditional cable or satellite providers – far from it. In 2022, cable companies lost over 3.5 million subscribers – over half of that (2 million) by Comcast alone. Satellite providers aren’t doing any better and are consistently losing over 5,000 customers each and every day. It’s hard to imagine the customer service staff and logistics necessary to process that many cancellations every day. But the promise of streaming services was that they would offer an alternative, a way to break free from the chains of limited choices and oppressive contracts. Now, we find ourselves in a situation where the streaming industry is rapidly becoming just as bloated and monopolistic as the industry it sought to replace.

The irony of this situation is not lost on those of us who have been following the streaming revolution from the beginning. We were promised an end to the tyranny of cable and satellite, and instead we find ourselves facing a new kind of tyranny, one that is perhaps even more insidious because it is cloaked in the language of “innovation” and “flexibility.