Changing the way we see TV

Could you live without your traditional TV set for a few days?

One guy did and lived to tell about it.

With observations gleaned from his adventure in alternative TV, James Poniewozik writes in the latest issue of Time Magazine about the changes in the TV viewing experience. In fact, it’s hard to put a finger on what TV even is anymore, given the proliferation of technologies and platforms that deliver audio-visual content on a screen to us now days.

On what could be an intimidating topic for non-techies, Poniewozik writes with insight, clarity and cultural savvy. Here’s a few nuggets:

“Some download TV to avoid ads. Some Netflix series so they can watch them in one big marathon. Some like the convenience, some the portability. Some are cutting their cable or satellite bills to save money in hard times. Millions of others use online video as a backup–Huluing dramas they missed live, watching March Madness on CBSSports.com or Wimbledon on ESPN360. (Preferably at work.)

The business implications of all this are huge. Who will get paid for the TV of the future? (With online piracy rampant, will anyone get paid at all?) How do you replace TV-commercial revenue? And how do you measure a hit when more and more of the audience is watching on computers, on DVD players, via video-game consoles or on the screen of the bike at the gym?”

….

“For a good half-century, “watching TV” meant one thing. It was something you did at home, with friends or family, in front of a stationary machine in a dedicated room, preferably with snack chips. You experienced a broadcast exactly when and how millions of others did–same Bat-time, same Bat-channel–or you did not experience it at all. And unless you got proactive with a VCR, you did not copy, carry or remix what you saw. This was why mass media were culturally unifying (or homogenizing): those moments that mattered, we all saw in exactly the same way. Not anymore. Today TV broadcasts are just starting points, raw material to be curated in a collective online canon.”

….

“So some shows will be big and grand for the giant screen. Other shows, like Comedy Central’s on- and off-line hits, will thrive on both platforms. Producers will start conceiving series both as whole entities and repurposable parts–like the Jan. 31 SNL skit involving Pepsi that ran the next night as a Super Bowl ad for Pepsi.”

If you’re interested in new media, or just curious about how TV is evolving – and likely to continue evolving – check out Viewing Outside The Box. It’s not that often that I recommend a piece from Time, so just do it.

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