We Now Disrupt This Broadcast: How Cable Transformed Television and the Internet Revolutionized It All tells the 20-year story of how cable became the center of popular culture and the internet arrived—not to kill television—but to revolutionize how it is produced and viewed. It pieces together the story of the transformation of the business of television and corresponding change in the shows produced.
How is it that “cable”—an industry that spent 30 years as the dark horse of U.S. television—became the source of programs that reinvented television as a creative form? The story begins in 1996 and is not a story of death, but of the collision of new technologies, changing business strategies, and unprecedented storytelling.
We Now Disrupt This Broadcast explores U.S. television’s transition first through the development and success of original, scripted cable series that transformed long held norms of television storytelling, perceptions of what U.S. commercial television could be, and several of the established practices for making television. Within a few short years, these programs ended broadcast dominance, and cable channels became the epicenter of television’s new identity as a sophisticated and interesting cultural form.
But before the new norms of a broadcast/cable television landscape could be established, internet-distributed video emerged and threatened nearly every norm of the television business—while also tremendously improving the experience of watching television. Internet distribution not only brought additional program providers such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu into an already abundantly competitive space, but also finally forced adjustment of business models that were barely holding together. Contrary to many predictions, internet distribution didn’t come to kill television, but to revolutionize how television reaches viewers.