Smartphones and tablets: the death and rebirth of traditional television

In the 1950’s the American family would gather around the television Leave-It-To-Beaver-style and enjoy all four channels they could pick up. Today, HD, cable, satellite and online television subscriptions have dramatically altered our choices for shows. Too bad no one’s watching them on that fancy flat-screen.

The younger American now wants their favorite shows in their hands. (Because they didn’t sit close enough before?) An article on Bloomberg shows how traditional television is suffering from an increasing rise in tablet and smartphone-only usage among younger viewers.

“The four major broadcasters have suffered a collective 7.2 percent drop in traditional TV viewers this season. They are introducing services to meet viewers’ demands for shows on tablets and smartphones, and they want that audience counted.”

In a way, this shows  the metaphorical and literal death of the American television viewer. The mentality of “there’s only one place to get my shows” is dead.  Instead of having to wait for their show, or fiddle with that fancy VCR they never could get the time right on…they can live stream it to their phone or tablet, or download it from places like iTunes or Amazon Prime.

But this doesn’t mean the end for networks, cable and satellite television. It’s being reborn with the move to the handheld devices. However, that signals a shift in medium rather than content. Like newspapers, they won’t be printed forever but they will exist online. (Where else would television news get their stories?)

Subscription-based show viewing like Netflix and Hulu, I argue, have set the standard for what we’ll see in the future as far as television show viewing goes. HBO has already made their web-presence with HBO Go, which is set up in similar fashions to Netflix and Hulu.

The TV won’t disappear for quite a while. After all, where will guys gather to drink beer and watch the Sunday game? Not at Jimmy’s soccer game…well not yet anyway.


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