Wednesday, April 29, 2015

CORE RESPONSE #5 - More TV Than Ever Before

In "Television Outside the Box" Lotz takes stock of the way television has changed as consumers have increasingly had more control over what they watch on TV. It started with the remote control which was available as early as the 1960s then moved on to VCRs, DVRs, cable, VOD and internet.

Each new wave of technology has brought predictions of the death of TV, and with each new development in technology the predictions have become more intense. Yet instead of killing TV, these technologies have simply expanded the idea of what television means. YouTube and certain types of digital video might be “nuggets” of news and entertainment, but then the highly serialized nature of VOD and Netflix makes increasingly longer narratives possible.

The delayed nature of DVR, DVDs, Netflix and other VODs also made critical buzz and word of mouth more important in a show's success. Shows like Arrested Development that were canceled on traditional network TV have gone on to develop loyal, cult followings on DVD and Netflix. Family Guy was brought back because of strong DVD sales.

It's not all good news, though. In 2005 Lotz writes that we reached saturation in many devices, and while we had much more supply of content than ever before, there was not a significant increase in demand.

Because of this embarrassment of riches in TV content, Lotz also argues that we need better ways to find and gather content, a "killer app". I would also argue that we need more tastemakers and critics to provide opinions on more content, particularly indie, online-only content like web series.

Lotz also paints a certain loss in TV culture as people stopped all watching the same things at the same time. Spoilers became a problem. The way live TV has unfolded has also changed from watching TV of major events in our living rooms to 9/11 when we watched them in offices or restaurants.

I was living in Boston during 9/11, working as a reporter in a small, neighborhood newspaper. When I got into work, everyone was watching the coverage on our one, small TV. We quickly transitioned to the bar and restaurant down the street where we could watch more footage on more screens with a room full of people to help us process what was happening.

Lotz is certainly right that the 2015 version of that event would have us all in the bar, looking at the footage on our phones, but I think we'd still need other people around us to help make sense of it all.

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