The news this week that Seth MacFarlane’s show The Orville is moving to Hulu comes as a surprise to some, but not to me at all. I think of it more as a sign of the times, and something consumers and fans should watch out for. Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? It should, the move is a hint of something bigger to come.
First, The Orville. Great show that was originally sold as a space comedy and has turned into so much more, it’s almost certainly the spiritual and moral successor to the Star Trek Next Generation / Voyager view of the future, and MacFarlane has packed the staff with people who worked and even ran those shows in the past. The Orville is both a tribute and an extension to the concept of episodic Space adventures, with a strong moral stand that sometimes gets in the way of more simple answers to issues. Most fans expected the show to be very lightweight, but instead it has morphed into a really great and often serious show with some really good laugh lines in it.
I have enjoyed The Orville a lot. They have dealt with some weighty issues (and some not so significant issues like Bortus’s annual pee), they have developed characters that are interesting and somewhat flawed, and really done an amazing job overall with what is known to be a fairly limited budget. The Orville did so well, it got renewed for a third season pretty easily. After that renewal, things have gotten a little more complex.
While there are a few versions of the story, the one I am buying into is this: MacFarlane is both a busy guy, and also someone who likes to get things right. As such, he pretty much said there is little chance to deliver new Orville episodes until late in 2020. That would suggest an entire season empty. That wouldn’t be a real issue, but some back room stuff went on, and I guess Fox decided they were not going to wait forever to get a new season. So instead, the show is headed to Hulu.
Hulu, for those who don’t know, is a video streaming site that was formed by the major networks and content creators as a way to compete both against piracy, sites like YouTube, and in some ways against themselves and their legacy business models of broadcast and cable. With many people (especially younger people) cord cutting and going to the internet for their entertainment, putting stuff online is a good way to reach these people. Hulu is effectively a pay service. This is where it gets a little complicated for fans.
See, The Orville will be on Hulu. The Star Trek stuff is all on CBS all access. So already, Sci-fi fans are having to sign up for two different services to see both series. Beyond that, we don’t know how many more of these services will pop up to stream your next favorite show. The results for fans is more money out of pocket.
The concept of free to air seems to be dying off. The era of TV networks and such seems to be very much a thing of the past, their ratings get weaker every year and their influence drops. The internet has split people into many different and fragments sub-groups, which makes it very hard to get people’s attention. More people will likely watch the Fortnite World Cup streaming this weekend than will watch most network shows. That scary bit of economics may make it harder for you to watch the next great show.
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