No one likes paying for cable. But the rise of the pay-TV business model led to the revolution in quality we’re currently enjoying from HBO shows like Thrones, as well as basic-cable programs like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Years ago, when channels only received revenue from advertising, they made shows to reach as many people as possible, whether viewers loved them or just tuned in because they happened to be on. Cable changed those incentives, rewarding the creation of shows viewers felt strongly enough to pay for (indirectly in the case of channels like FX and AMC). That made nuanced drama profitable on television—and the best television more sophisticated than film. Sometimes, you really do get what you pay for.
NO ONE LIKES PAYING FOR CABLE. BUT THE RISE OF THE PAY-TV BUSINESS MODEL LED TO THE REVOLUTION IN QUALITY WE’RE CURRENTLY ENJOYING FROM HBO SHOWS LIKE THRONES.
Shows like Game of Thrones cost big bucks. Each episode of the first season reportedly had a budget of more than $5 million. Most such shows don’t attract all that many viewers compared to cheaper mainstream programs like American Idol. And if Game of Thrones sounds like easy money, remember that it has to generate enough profit to make up for Romeand John From Cincinnati. If HBO sold every show by the episode right away, it would have to charge a premium for hits to make up for its inevitable misses