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What to watch—and watch for—in 2018

The rollback of net neutrality stands to change the way we watch in 2018. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

This story is part of our multi-part series looking at some of the big stories and bright ideas primed to make headlines in 2018.

In 2017, science fiction (think: Stranger Things and The OA) loomed large in entertainment. So, too, did film and series revivals such as Beauty and the Beast and Will and Grace. What should we watch (and watch for) in 2018? We asked Alan Schroeder—a journalism professor and former television producer whose research includes television and specifically television news—about the trends we might see this year.

He said there’s a lot at play that could change what we’re watching and how we’re watching it. The Federal Communications Commission voted in December to kill net neutrality—a move that could have broad implications for streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. And the increasing number of “cord-cutters,” or people who don’t subscribe to cable, is making “communal viewing” events, like those brought on by election coverage or awards shows, ever rarer.

Here, we asked him more about what this year might bring.

What TV or film trends will you be watching for in 2018?

Consumers will continue cable-cutting and opting instead for an on-demand, a la carte experience. Viewers are finding less and less reason to watch programming on any kind of regular schedule, with the exception of big-ticket live events like sports, awards shows, and election coverage. Those programs—the Super Bowl, say, or the Oscars—still attract enormous ratings, but that kind of communal viewing experience is becoming increasingly rare.

What trends emerged in 2017 in TV that you think might expand this year?

Short-term serials with a limited number of episodes are drawing huge audiences across genres, so we can expect more of that. The explosion in documentary filmmaking is another promising trend that bodes well for the future. Consumers should be nervous about the potential end of net neutrality, but it remains to be seen what the recent FCC decision will actually mean for television consumption—and for our pocketbooks.

We saw a lot of TV revivals and remakes in 2017. Do you think that will continue in 2018?

As long as they draw an audience, TV revivals are likely to continue. Revivals are the entertainment equivalent of comfort food, with viewers happily returning to old favorites from the past. If there’s money to be made off an established franchise, somebody will find a way to do it.