In her chapter “Television Outside the Box”, Amanda Lotz gives an in depth and somewhat retrospective analysis of what she calls revolutionized television of 2007. Reading this chapter, eight years later in 2015, generally bolsters my own fascination with the ongoing evolution of post-network TV distribution. As digital “pure play” streaming platforms such as Amazon, Hulu and Netflix continue to escalate in popularity, and with the emergence of subscription based exclusive streaming services like Vessel, Lotz’s questions surrounding audience fragmentation remain relevant. Lotz argues that with the introduction of new technological advances in the reception and aesthetics of TV, “Viewers gained greater control over their entertainment experience, yet became attached to an increasing range of devices that demanded their attention and financial support,” (51).
The decentralization of TV viewing (that is to say we no longer only consume TV in our living rooms on our sofas) along with the disruption of linear programming and flow (we can set our at home DVR’s to record chosen programs with a few clicks on our cell phones) that Lotz and others began to observe in the early 2000’s have become dominant practices in television consumption.
Lotz highlights a distinction between mobile TV for convenience and portable TV for the desire of immediacy when discussing the viewer motivations for engaging in alternative modes of TV consumption. Mobile TV which allows viewers to “disrupt the networks” by use of DVR and VOD becomes even more disruptive in the form of portable TV – which in early stages came by way of DVD box sets and in newer formats consists of online streaming via tablets and mobile apps.
Portable TV redefines the medium itself by breaking apart the traditional structure of TV consumption and opening up the possibility of TV being viewed anywhere, at any time an in any conceivable way. We can essentially go about our daily lives in constant company of our favorite TV programs at our beckon call. To take things a step further, these new modes of disruption have prompted an overhaul in the actual development and production of TV. Network executives are thinking about millennial online audiences who don’t have cable subscriptions. Tech startups are conjuring the next big online/mobile streaming platforms. Internet celebrity wannabes are clamoring to post viral content. TV isn’t made for TV anymore. The medium has collapsed.
In “Flexible Microcasting”, Lisa Parks outlines the different ways in which the Networks – through personalized and gender targeted programming, the re-imagining of traditional quiz shows, and use of Internet based branded content – attempted to “transition viewers into online domains,” (138). Parks uses the term “post-broadcasting” to describe the integration of on air broadcasting programs with Internet based computer technologies.
What is most interesting for me here is Parks’ reading of the failure of DEN as a partial product of its “anti-television rhetoric”. Parks states that, “The economic viability of the Den was built on the assumption that youth would want to turn off network and cable TV and turn on the DEN in a search for salient content – that is, content deemed too fringe for broadcast television,” (151). She posits that DEN’s unwillingness to tap into the hybrid potential of Internet TV contributed to its obsolescence.
Almost prophetically, Internet streaming of TV programs began taking over as a prime popular mode of consumption just a few years after Parks’ chapter was written. The Internet through Hulu, Netflix, Amazon (and countless other ‘bootleg’ digital options) has emerged as perhaps Network TV’s greatest ally, and simultaneously its most daunting competitor. Furthermore, with digital pure play platforms like Netflix and Amazon producing their own original content traditionally constructed meaning of TV has all but collapsed in terms of conception, production and consumption.