That resilience is exactly the focus of the special report The Economist ran on the state of TV earlier this month. In 16 pages and about six different articles they manage to point out the power TV still holds over the world (over 4 hours a day on average, everywhere), where the medium is headed (the Internet and yes, 3D); and why television is just about the only medium touched by the web that isn’t falling to pieces.
The answer to that last question is simple – TV has done an amazing job integrating technology as it’s introduced. From the VCR to DVR’s to Internet-ready flat screens and online streaming sites – TV is absorbing new media as it arrives. Instead of waiting for a revolutionary service like iTunes to turn the industry upside down, networks around the globe are voluntarily putting their most popular shows on the web. Can’t watch your favorite program at nine on a Thursday? Don’t worry, there’s always the DVR. Off on a business trip and won’t be home for two weeks? Not a problem, you’re only a laptop and a WiFi connection away from Hulu.
Far from being cannibalized, traditional TV viewing is rising as new screens create a simultaneous dance of screen usage. Americans use TV and Internet together 35% more than a year ago. It's becoming more important, not less important - because TV is an idea, not a box.
I’ve clipped and quoted from three of the more interesting sections of The Economist story below.
On how much TV we watch:
In 2009, young Americans (8-18) were spending more than seven and a half hours with media each day . . . into that space [when multi-tasking is taken into account] they packed in an astonishing 10 hours and 45 minutes of consumption. Among other things, they were watching more television.
The average YouTube user spends 15 minutes a day on the website, compared with the five hours that the average television viewer spends in front of the box.
On the Golden Age of TV:
It can be argued that Hollywood makes less impressive films these days than it did in the 70’s (or the 30’s), but that is not true of television. Modern TV shows . . . are so superior to that went before – so much better written, better acted and better shot – that they almost seem to belong to a different medium.
(For anyone in doubt on this, last night was the curtain – for the meantime – on one of the decade’s great TV series, 24. Didn’t you just want to reach into the screen and touch Jack to calm his soul?)
On Football of the Future (in 3D!):
The thing that will really drive people to buy 3-D sets is sport . . . watching football in three dimensions is a revelation. A crush of players jostling for position as a ball sails through the air suddenly becomes intelligible.
Those who have experimented with filming sport in 3D say the effect is so compelling that they need fewer cameras (which are placed lower down, near the touchline) and many fewer cuts.