The Future of Television Isn't

Last night I had dinner with a friend who could only be described as an "early adopter" of new technology and the use of it. Okay, this is a guy who built his own computers in the 1980’s and has about four computers running at once in his apartment today.

I often pay attention to how he uses the Web and new technology as a bellwether for what consumers may be doing years into the future. I consider myself an early adopter, but he’s definitely way out ahead of me.

So we got to talking about the fact that he’s now installed a TV-tuner card on one of his computers. This is akin to having Tivo attached to your computer. He’s able to watch live TV from his computer as well as record shows onto it. He can then drag those shows into his iPod-like device and watch when he’s not at home. 

As we were talking about all the nifty software he’s using to record the shows, and automatically erase the commercials, I said, "Well, how much live TV to you actually watch these days?"

He gleefully said, "Are you kidding? NONE! I make it a point to never watch live TV anymore."

What he was saying was, "Why should I watch live TV, when I can watch what I want, when I want it, at any time of day?" Think about it. Aside from having bragging rights that you saw the latest episode of "Grey’s Anatomy" at the instant it ran for the first time, why would you want to plan your life around when NBC wants you to watch the show, rather than staring it at 9:48, when it’s convenient to you? Of course, this was the promise of DVRs and TIVO.

But these devices merely "time-shift." You still look at a line-up of shows and pick what you want to record based on the time it’s playing.

However, we are rapidly approaching a world in which virtually all video content is already digitized. (Aside from news and sports, there’s almost nothing that’s truly live.) So rather than going to my DVR and selecting the time and the show name, in the future I’ll just do a search and say, "I want to watch the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy.” The computer will figure out when it’s running and will record it for you. While this is true for those of us that already have DVRs now, most of us still think of television as a time-oriented medium. "What time is that show on?" is still part of our mindset.

What I’m saying is the the next generation of television watchers (maybe the children of the iPod generation) won’t even think about the time  that a show is running. That’s irrelevant. All they will consider is what they want to watch. 

We’re not there yet. But soon enough we will be in a world in which there is no need to watch live TV because it’s merely relic of another era in which television schedules ruled your  life and your calendar.

I can still hear it in my ear. "I make it a point NEVER to watch live TV." Fascinating.

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One response to “The Future of Television Isn’t

  1. I never watch live TV! I cannot imagine running home to catch a live show. My DVR of choice is indeed Tivo, and as i say to my friends “I don’t watch MORE TV, I just watch TV better.” I probably have 60 hours of programming on my TiVo… episodes of Nova, Frontline, Project Runway… and a bunch of them are loaded onto my computer. Geez… why surf when i have all this at my finger tips? Honestly, the future is now!

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