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The death of television. No, seriously this time.

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At an extracurricular bowling outing with some people at the office, an intern pointed at the television at the bar and told me that they would be going away, soon. The internet would soon eclipse it as the dominant force for delivering everything from news to entertainment to communication. Everything would be online. She gave it two years, max. That was 2002.

Flash forward to today and we see that television has survived the various apocalypses planned for it due to the rise of the digital world. I’ve dismissed them for over a decade. Today, I’m seeing the light. The doomsday kids are finally correct. Television is dying.

In hopes of not being branded as one who gets too far ahead of myself with technobabble, I’ll declare that the death of television is actually a very clearly delineated transition to “interactive media delivery through multiple devices with the traditional television being one of a multitude of screens through which we receive visual information.” That doesn’t sound much like death, but it really is. Television as we’ve known it for decades is dying and even the television that we’ve embraced in recent years is transitioning.

I still watch television shows. I just watch them on my computer through Netflix and Hulu. I still watch live events such as football games. I just watch them streaming on my computer’s second screen while I work. I still watch television news reports. I just do so through my mobile devices. I’ll even watch the occasional movie, but I either go to the theater or revert back to my Netflix/computer connection.

I’m not alone, either, and advertisers are starting to get that.

This is the primary reason I’ve fought the “death of TV” crowd for so long and why I’m not switching my tune. Despite the tremendous popularity of the internet as a form of media delivery, the dollars still favored television. As long as the dollars favored television, I saw no reason for the knell. Now, I do. As the money makes its transition away from television and towards digital media, we have to examine the weights and balances that drive a media-engrossed western culture and ask ourselves what the future truly holds.

Evolving to Engagement

Interactive television is nothing new. The methods through which the various mediums interact is changing regularly, evolving into cross-device reach that allows today’s media consumer to watch on one screen and engage on the other.

That’s not the future. It’s here already and is expanding rapidly. The obvious avenue for this to continue to expand is social media where every story, show, game, and event has a hashtag.

It’s more than that, though. True engagement means more than Twitter and Facebook. For television to evolve smoothly rather than being forced to play catch up, media companies are going to have to diversify for an easier cross-platform experience. This means having programs that truly adopt a digital component for real-time interaction regardless of whether an event is live or watched separately.

There are many ways that media can manifest across devices and sources, but if you want to know what’s coming next, just follow the money. As consumers shift, advertisers shift. As advertisers shift, the mediums themselves evolve. Welcome to the future of in-home entertainment.

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