Friday, May 16, 2008

The Death of TV is Greatly Exaggerated

Here's an important topic for a TV blog. Is television dying? Is it already dead? Since the end of the writer's strike, there has been a tsunami of negative press for broadcast television, all predicting its eminent demise. There's no doubt about it, the ratings are down for the big three (ABC, NBC, CBS). Only FOX has survived the viewer flight, due almost entirely to the strength of American Idol.

Many of the viewers who fled to other forms of media during the writer's strike are not coming back to traditional television. Ever. Here's why I, lover of TV since I was lulled to sleep by my first black and white Indian Head test pattern, think that might not necessarily be the end of the world.

  1. While viewers might not be watching TV as much on the traditional home set, they are flocking to streaming video of their favorite TV shows online
  2. Boxed set DVD sales of entire seasons of TV programs are flying off the shelves. Did you know that more DVD's are sold of TV programs than of all movies combined today?
  3. Time shifting behaviors (TiVo, DVR) have become mainstream. People are still watching, they are just doing it when it suits them. Today, appointment television means you have to put permanent hold on your digitally recorded episode so it does not get erased before you are ready to view.
But beyond all that media mumbo jumbo, here is the real reason why TV is still relevant. I watched a pre-recorded episode of the one hour season finale of The Office with my son and 5 of his very vocal teenage friends tonight. On a scale of 1 to 10 for engagement, we were a 15. Whole scenes were re-wound so we could watch and discuss. Favorite characters were cheered and revered as they came on scene. Theories and predictions for the outcome of the episode were thrown out randomly and either applauded or dismissed. Everybody had something to say about the program and everybody went SHHHHHHH when there were too many comments and we missed something. And then we would re-wind again. It might just be tonight's pepperoni pizza talking, but that sure seems like love to me.

It's all about the content folks. Great writing, compelling characters, and nobody is going anywhere. But the audience is a fickle beast. Tonight we watched the brilliance of NBC's "The Office" on regular TV. Tomorrow it might be streaming on the Internet. Or our mobile phones. Note to Marshall McLuhan.....the medium is no longer the message. It's just the pipeline. We never know what's going to come down the chute these days. Tonight, it was a flawless one hour comedy on the family living room TV set.

And by the way...NBC totally understands the online world. You can watch this Office season finale on their website if you missed it last night. And you can watch the promo for it, right here on The Flaming Nose, compliments of You Tube.


Scott said...

Well put Jane. As a matter of fact, we watched last night's The Office tonight, when it suited us. Actually, I was tired but Harry watched it last night, and laughed so hard he wanted to see it again with me tonight! Truly brilliant and hilarious. And our DVR let us rewind multiple times. You just can't get enough Phyllis!

Jane said...

When Phyllis gets on the phone to order the anti gravity machine it was sheer comic genius. We love Phyllis. But then again we love all the characters. Each perfect, in his/her way.

Dean Treadway said...

No way is TV dead. In my opinion, it's just starting to live. And it'll live on, as long as we have TV on DVD. My collection of DVDs is filled with as much TV material as it is movie stuff. So boo to the people who say it's on its last legs.

Jane said...

Bravo, Dean! TV is not dead and neither is film. We just have to wade through a lot of crap to get to the golden rings these days. In many ways that was always true, though. I would even venture to say that today, with networks like HBO, television is better than ever. Can you imagine even mentioning programs like The Sopranos or Six Feet Under in the same breath with an old school TV drama like TJ Hooker or CHiPs? We've come a long way baby. So how's Brooklyn today? Is that where you live?

Dean Treadway said...

Brooklyn is surprisingly cold and rainy today, so I'm staying in to write some more things for filmicability, and of course to read some more things on the nose and leave my two cents. I think I might work on an article on TV that I've promised to Lisa and the Nose (and that'll I'll publish on my site simultaneously). In fact, I think I'll start that right now, just to get my writing chops back (after what feels like a long hiatus).