How streaming, diversity, #MeToo shaped TV decade of change

  • FILE - This March 25, 2019 file photo shows Apple CEO Tim Cook, from left, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg outside the Steve Jobs Theater during an event to announce new Apple products in Cupertino, Calif. Apple TV Plus launched Nov. 1 with Winfrey and Spielberg among its first wave of producers, and was quickly followed by Disney Plus.

    FILE - This March 25, 2019 file photo shows Apple CEO Tim Cook, from left, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg outside the Steve Jobs Theater during an event to announce new Apple products in Cupertino, Calif. Apple TV Plus launched Nov. 1 with Winfrey and Spielberg among its first wave of producers, and was quickly followed by Disney Plus. Associated Press

  • This image released by Netflix shows Noah Schnapp, from left, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb Mclaughlin in a scene from "Stranger Things." It took less than a decade for leader Netflix to skyrocket from about 12 million U.S. subscribers at the decade's start to 60 million this year and 158 million worldwide. (Netflix via AP)

    This image released by Netflix shows Noah Schnapp, from left, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb Mclaughlin in a scene from "Stranger Things." It took less than a decade for leader Netflix to skyrocket from about 12 million U.S. subscribers at the decade's start to 60 million this year and 158 million worldwide. (Netflix via AP) Associated Press

  • This combination photo shows, clockwise from top left, Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif., Claire Foy and Matt Smith in a scene from "The Crown," Noah Schnapp, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb Mclaughlin in a scene from "Stranger Things," and Uzo Aduba, left, and Samira Wiley appear in a scene from "Orange is the New Black."  It took less than a decade for leader Netflix to skyrocket from about 12 million U.S. subscribers at the decade's start to 60 million this year and 158 million worldwide.

    This combination photo shows, clockwise from top left, Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif., Claire Foy and Matt Smith in a scene from "The Crown," Noah Schnapp, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb Mclaughlin in a scene from "Stranger Things," and Uzo Aduba, left, and Samira Wiley appear in a scene from "Orange is the New Black." It took less than a decade for leader Netflix to skyrocket from about 12 million U.S. subscribers at the decade's start to 60 million this year and 158 million worldwide. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this file image released by Netflix, Uzo Aduba, left, and Samira Wiley appear in a scene from "Orange is the New Black."  It took less than a decade for leader Netflix to skyrocket from about 12 million U.S. subscribers at the decade's start to 60 million this year and 158 million worldwide.  (Jojo Whilden/Netflix via AP, File)

    FILE - In this file image released by Netflix, Uzo Aduba, left, and Samira Wiley appear in a scene from "Orange is the New Black." It took less than a decade for leader Netflix to skyrocket from about 12 million U.S. subscribers at the decade's start to 60 million this year and 158 million worldwide. (Jojo Whilden/Netflix via AP, File) Associated Press

  • This image released by HBO shows Emilia Clarke, left, and Kit Harington in a scene from the final episode of "Game of Thrones."   The series was both an unprecedented achievement and old-school role model in the TV decade that's rolling its final credits.(HBO via AP)

    This image released by HBO shows Emilia Clarke, left, and Kit Harington in a scene from the final episode of "Game of Thrones." The series was both an unprecedented achievement and old-school role model in the TV decade that's rolling its final credits.(HBO via AP) Associated Press

  • This image released by Netflix shows Claire Foy, center, and Matt Smith, right, in a scene from "The Crown." It took less than a decade for leader Netflix to skyrocket from about 12 million U.S. subscribers at the decade's start to 60 million this year and 158 million worldwide. (Robert Viglasky/Netflix via AP)

    This image released by Netflix shows Claire Foy, center, and Matt Smith, right, in a scene from "The Crown." It took less than a decade for leader Netflix to skyrocket from about 12 million U.S. subscribers at the decade's start to 60 million this year and 158 million worldwide. (Robert Viglasky/Netflix via AP) Associated Press

 
 
Updated 12/11/2019 8:22 PM

LOS ANGELES -- 'úGame of Thrones'Ě was both an unprecedented achievement and old-school role model in the TV decade that's rolling its final credits.

Installments of the elaborately produced hit were doled out one at a time by an established outlet, premium cable channel HBO. That was standard TV operating procedure until, suddenly, it wasn't. The new era arrived in 2013 when a full season's worth of 'úHouse of Cards" popped up amid Netflix's on-demand movies and old TV shows.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The drama's unexpected home appeared simply to be an option to the 500-channel universe born in the 1990s. But 'úHouse of Cards'Ě foreshadowed a streaming gold rush and volume of programming dubbed Peak TV in 2015 - and with no drop in altitude in sight.

The result: Nothing is the same, whether it's how much television we consume; how and where we do it; who gets to make it, and the level of respect given the creatively emboldened small screen. We don't just watch TV, we binge it until we're bleary-eyed if not sated. We still change channels with a remote control, but more often we're logging in to watch shows on our phones or other devices and on our schedules, not network-dictated appointment TV.

Consumers have embraced the change in their media world, said Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University's Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture.

'úThis was the decade that streaming became for many, many people the dominant way in which they watch television,'Ě said Thompson. It's a rapid shift that bears little relation to the previous entertainment industry revolution, cable TV.

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Only about a quarter of U.S. homes had cable in 1980 despite its availability since the mid-20th century. While growth finally exploded in the 'ė80's, it wasn't until the late '90s and the arrival of HBO's 'úThe Sopranos'Ě and 'úSex and the City'Ě that premium cable received critical praise and honors, Thompson said.

In contrast, it took less than a decade for leader Netflix to skyrocket from about 12 million U.S. subscribers at the decade's start to 60 million this year and 158 million worldwide. It reportedly lavished $15 billion on programming for 2019 alone, and earned buzz with series including 'úThe Crown,'Ě "Stranger Things,'Ě and 'úOrange is the New Black.'Ě

Others in the fray include Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, although 'ústreaming wars'Ě became the aggressive phrase applied to the increasingly competitive marketplace.

Apple TV Plus launched Nov. 1 with Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg among its first wave of producers , and was quickly followed by Disney Plus. The latter draws on a storehouse of Disney movies and TV shows, as well as powerhouse franchises like Marvel Entertainment and 'úStar Wars.'Ě

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

While cord-cutting became a quest for viewers seeking to shed hefty cable bills, there is still a price tag for the gusher of riches, as much as $14.99 monthly for HBO Max alone.

A bonus for viewers as they sort through the competing options: More programming doesn't just mean more of the same. The decade has been marked by opportunities for diverse and candid voices.

Take Donald Glover's trajectory. The future multi-hyphenate writer, musician, actor and director had a respectable run as a cast member on the network sitcom 'úCommunity.'Ě Two years later, he was the creator and star of FX's 'úAtlanta,'Ě which drew raves for its innovative storytelling focused on African American characters.

Jill Soloway called on family experience to create the groundbreaking 'úTransparent,'Ě about a trans woman and how her decision to be open has a ripple effect on her children and their circle.

Even mainstream broadcasting expanded its field of vision, with ABC the first network in 20 years to air an Asian American family sitcom, 'úFresh Off the Boat.'Ě Nahnatchka Khan was its executive producer, one of the women who gained prominence behind the camera in a sector long dominated by men.

Lena Dunham's 'úGirls'Ě presented more than cookie-cutter young women, both in body and spirit, and foreshadowed the rise of actresses whose talent demands more attention than their weight, including Aidy Bryant of 'úSaturday Night Live'Ě and Chrissy Metz of "This Is Us."'

African American women took the spotlight in creator-star Issa Rae's 'úInsecure,'Ě while Jenji Kohan's 'úOrange is the New Black," featured characters notable for their ethnic, sexual and class diversity.

Writer-actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge's 'úFleabag'Ě provided the decade's big finish with its bold sexuality, earning six Emmys last fall including top comedy.

Some established female producers further cemented their success. Shonda Rhimes added 'úScandal'Ě and 'úHow to Get Away with Murder'Ě to her body of work, with the latter's star, Viola Davis, becoming the first African American to win a best drama actress Emmy. Ava DuVernay, already a filmmaking force, spearheaded 'úWhen They See Us'Ě and 'úQueen Sugar.''Ě

Across all TV platforms in 2017-18, women accounted for a historic high of 31% of those working in key behind-the-scenes jobs including directors, writers and editors, according to research by San Diego State University's Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film.

While television better reflected the world at large, it was forced to look inward as well.

Revelations of sexual misconduct hit the TV industry with more lasting effect than any other sector of Hollywood.

Two of media's top powerbrokers were brought down in the #MeToo era. Les Moonves was ousted in 2018 as CBS CEO after an outside investigation of abuse claims, with Moonves denying any non-consensual sexual relations. Roger Ailes, who built Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel into both a lucrative operation and major force in American politics, was forced out in the wake of sexual harassment claims.

Matt Lauer ("Today"), Charlie Rose ('úCBS This Morning") and PBS host Tavis Smiley were wiped away from TV screens for alleged misbehavior of varying types and their denials notwithstanding.

Top-tier actors and a famed comedian lost their jobs, including Jeffrey Tambor of 'úTransparent,'Ě Kevin Spacey of 'úHouse of Cards'Ě and Louis C.K., whose TV projects included 'úLouie,'Ě which he starred in and produced. Tambor and Spacey rebutted the misconduct allegations, Louis C.K. apologized.

CBS was criticized for renewing 'úBull'Ě despite actress Eliza Dushku's claim that she was dropped for complaining that the show's star, Michael Weatherly, made crude comments about her on set.

Dushku received a reported $9.5 million settlement under its then-CEO - Les Moonves.

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