How has the Birth of the Internet changed TV?

There were several points that I wanted to research in relation to my audio documentary surrounding the subject of how TV viewing has changed in the last fifty year since the birth of the internet.

Online Streaming 

Online streaming and on demand viewing is becoming increasingly popular with audiences today. It is a lot more desirable to be able to choose more specifically what you want to watch and when, rather than having to wait and watch a show at a certain time, often with advert breaks throughout.

Ad breaks are one motivation to have online subscriptions, because shows aren’t broken up by adverts, making the viewing quicker, and not being forced to watch ads from third party companies that you haven’t volunteered to watch. Because these services offer the option to not watch adverts, audiences feel as though they shouldn’t have to watch them on a whole throughout TV shows.

Device Viewing

In recent years, device viewing instead of tv viewing has become increasingly popular (Nielsen, 2016). While not all TV’s support online streaming services, it is sometimes a lot more convenient to put an episode of a show on your phone than to get it up on a tv. Also, a lot of university students don’t have TVs, so there is a large demographic having to watch through their computers, laptops, mobiles and tablets instead.

Devices are also used a lot as a ‘second screen’ while people watch TV. This means that people are using their phones, laptops, etc while they are watching shows. Because of the increase in ‘second screening’, media companies are trying to exploit this, by encouraging conversations online on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. This increases discussions surrounding shows and makes it more likely for people to want to watch, because of the updated ‘water cooler’ effect – people wanting to watch shows so they can join in the discussions of their friends and colleagues.

Subscription Culture

Society today is very consumerism focused, buying lots of material things, and having lots of subscriptions to services. The most likely monthly subscriptions for most people to have are for online streaming services, gym memberships and mobile phone bills, excluding rent/mortgage payments, and house bills. It is becoming increasingly popular to have monthly subscriptions, instead of yearly payments as it is seen as less of a burden to pay in one large payment. One-year payments are also easier to keep track of, as well as having the comfort of knowing that companies can’t raise their fess a few months into the subscription.

Amazon Prime is the only online streaming subscription that I am aware of that charges for their subscription in one payment for the year, most others, such as Netflix and Now TV, change monthly, meaning that you can cancel the payments whenever you wish and end the subscription. While this makes it easier for people to end their subscriptions, this also means that users with more limited funds are more likely to pay for one or two months at a time than invest in a larger one-year payment.

Binge Watching vs Live Viewing

Now, there are more and more tv shows that have high production costs and are made with the idea of binge watching in mind, but these are often produced by online streaming companies rather than cable companies. Even cable companies such as Channel 4, ITV and iPlayer have box sets available online for viewers to watch.

Although binge watching means that audiences can watch whenever they want, traditional tv is still popular. Having to wait one week between episodes is becoming a thing of the past for most shows, with seasons being released as a whole, but the wait between episodes builds anticipation, and increases the likelihood of people spreading word-of-mouth about the show.

One negative to binge watching is that if you finish the show so quickly, then it’s over, there isn’t any more to watch. Because it isn’t spread over several weeks, there’s nothing stopping people sitting and watching every episode in one go, meaning there’s a usual year long wait until the next season, or more episodes.

‘Cutting the Cord’ with Traditional TV

Cutting the Cord is the idea of cancelling, or no longer having a subscription to cable TV, and only watching through online services or Freeview.

I have written a more detailed separate blog post about this subject as I did further research into it.

‘The Death of TV’

Is the internet and online streaming causing the Death of TV?

Streaming companies such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are now creating such high budget shows, made as though they are films, but split into a certain number of episodes, that binge watching has become such a popular part of today’s culture. Sitting and watching a show for hours is now a normal pastime for people, and lots of people enjoy doing this rather than watching a different show every hour or half an hour.

The expansion of Audience Choice in contrast with TV 50 years ago

There is an almost unlimited choice in what TV we can watch today, both through cable companies with hundreds of channels, as well as traditional TV platforms’ on demand services, people’s own recordings, and online streaming. This means that people are no longer forced to choose to watch what is on TV at a certain time, and they also don’t have to watch shows at their original airing times.

This is a great thing for audiences because they can watch almost anything they wish to at any time, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing for media companies because they have a lot more competition now for viewers. This competition means they have to have higher budgets for creating shows, as well as having to release more content for viewers, as well as motivating them to be more innovative, creating things like interactive content and additional content for viewers that isn’t just the actual show.

Is TV watching an anti social act?

Following on from binge watching, the idea of tv being an anti social act isn’t very farfetched. People are spending increasingly more time bingeing shows, which is less time that they could be spending interacting with each other.

However, it could be argued that TV watching isn’t antisocial because it creates so much interaction surrounding the show, whether this is through social media, or in person. People can create conversations surrounding shows at work and school, and TV watching can even be made into an event of itself. The Super Bowl is arguably one of the biggest social events of the year, with millions of people tuning in to watch live, and this is also a very large social event because of the watch parties hosted, as well as the interactions people have surrounding it.




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