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Are We Watching the World Flatten Out?

If you would have told me 10 years ago that Facebook would be providing footage of a UEFA Champions League quarterfinal match free of charge…

I would have thought you were crazy.

Earlier today, because a certain cable provider that has chosen to invest in rebranding, marketing and just about everything else except for quality, I was left with the option of following virtual text updates for the first leg of the UEFA Champions League game between Sevilla and Bayern Munich. Then, I had an idea. After the TV and ESPN app options provided a nil-nil result, I logged into Facebook. And there, before my eyes, one click away was the Fox Soccer Channel’s video and commentary feed of the aforementioned game via Facebook Live.

Simply incredible in more ways than one.

One: Social media has effectively entered some of the biggest sports broadcasting stadiums and games around the world in real-time, albeit at a seemingly small-scale at the moment.

Two: The Facebook Live video (with quality commentary) was/is free.

For a social networking platform that is rightfully being criticized for privacy issues, this is one positive story for Mark Zuckerberg’s company this week. While Facebook Live isn’t new, the Sevilla vs. Bayern Munich game earlier today highlights that–much like the communications industry–broadcasting sports games has entered a new phase that could prove to have good and bad consequences by flattening out through technological innovation.

Is the Pay-Per-View model slowly nearing the antiquated tech graveyard? How does cable TV respond concerning its sports packages if this isolated game, presumably available to fans (and Facebook users) around the country and the world, evolves into the rule and not the exception? Is this a good thing? A bad thing? Should there be some exclusive reward for purchasing/investing in premium cable channels and packages? How will (or does) privacy issues play into using Facebook Live, YouTube Live or similar streaming services while logged in as a user? How should we consume a variety of live television programs?

One thing I know for certain at this point is that I watched Bayern Munich score two critical away goals in a 2-1 win at Sevilla with an enjoyable post-game recap by a Fox Soccer Channel host and two analysts.

Lots of questions to ponder. So, round-and-round we’ll go.

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Reality Check

The influx of Emmy nominations for shows featured on Netflix was no anomaly. Fellow dramas on cable networks that were nominated for Emmy’s were also no fluke. Even PBS has a stellar hour-long journey that takes us back to the sensationally proper early 20th century England. Shows like, “House of Cards,” “Mad Men,” “Game of Thrones,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Homeland” and the remarkably addictive “Downton Abbey” have projected themselves as thoroughly entertaining with great settings, engaging storytelling and, above all, superb acting and originality.

The shows listed above, along with some shows on the major networks (“The Big Bang Theory,” “Person of Interest” and “How I Met Your Mother” as a few examples) have gone to painstaking lengths to present a story and set of characters that an audience will enjoy and care about. Relationships have been formed and they are long-term.

The specific revelation about Netflix’s evolution as a leading entertainment provider of new content is indicative of the ever-changing face of the modern television viewer and his/her expectations and preferences.

Contemplate this: Five years ago, Paul Giamatti became John Adams for the HBO series, “John Adams,” Steven Spielberg co-executive produced, “The Pacific” on HBO with Tom Hanks in 2010, Kevin Spacey stars in “House of Cards,” Maggie Smith dominates, “Downton Abbey,” Michael Shannon and Steve Buscemi light up “Boardwalk Empire” and January Jones realistically portrays the wife/divorcee of an advertising giant in the 1960s on, “Mad Men.”

If only I recognized just one of those names?

Within the last decade, the word “epic” has been a common adjective to describe some major motion pictures. Writers and directors made a cogent decision to create entire worlds filled with exciting action, seductive drama, story lines the size of the Empire State Building and plot twists that, figuratively speaking, “blow our minds.” And don’t forget about those omnipresent soundtracks that alone gives us goosebumps, swing our emotions and get our hearts racing in just a matter of seconds. While the movies of recent memory are not the first to project an “epic” story on the silver screen, they have nonetheless set the standard for movies, television and all relative media alike today.

Interestingly, many people will refrain from watching the newest episodes of the aforementioned shows listed above and instead sit down and watch an entire season during the weekend. Thus, it feels more like a movie with multiple sequels than it does a routine television show. “24” sure was great…

And there are many things said about the reality television shows that dominate the major networks (sans “The Amazing Race”), but superb acting, rich characters and original storytelling are not among them.

Among the convoluted world of modern television that is overcrowded with reality shows about anything and everything (literally), one certainty is shining a hopeful bright light through this overcast cloud of reality noise: more and more fans are investing their time and imaginations in shows that portray grand stories with compelling characters woven together with clever writing. For Heaven’s sake, The History Channel produced a blockbuster hit with, “The Bible” (sadly, I think NBC only saw dollar signs and not the great story when it bought the rights to the series sequel). National Geographic struck presidential gold with, “Killing Lincoln” (narrated by Tom Hanks).

The dynamic of watching television is continuing to change on a seemingly monthly basis.

In fact, it’s quite epic.

That’s the reality.