Why Technology Will Never Truly Change TV

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Image wikipedia.

With television, the more things change the more they stay the same. Despite the colossal impact of technology on the medium, TV hasn’t fundamentally changed and probably never will.

Technology hasn’t changed TV, but how people engage with it

“Writers, producers and directors realize their stories may be seen on a three inch or an 84 inch screen, in a seven-second vine or 14-hour-long episodes binge-watched in a row. They tailor their story-telling accordingly.”

The way people engage with TV has changed. The proliferation of mobile devices, for example, has given rise to phenomena like second screening. According to Nielsen, almost half of smartphone and tablet owners use those devices as second screens while watching TV. Of tablet owners, 49% and 34% respectively look up info specifically on the plot lines, actors, athletes or teams they’re watching.

Second screening is changing the nature of programming. Twitter and TV, for example, are pretty in love right now. Think of reality-based programs like The Voice, wherein viewers can change the outcome of the show by taking to Twitter to cast a vote. This phenomena only looks to become more prevalent in the future. Rogers’ Innovation Report, which regularly polls Canadians on tech trends and predictions, found that 48% of Canadians believe they’ll be able to alter a show’s plot by voting in social media in real-time, while 64% believe they will be able to purchase products directly from live programming.

“Programming and the physical TV viewing experience are always evolving hand in hand,” says David Kines, President of broadcast company Hollywood Suite. “Writers, producers and directors realize their stories may be seen on a three inch or an 84-inch screen, in a seven-second vine or 14-hour-long episodes binge-watched in a row. They tailor their story-telling accordingly. Technology usually leads the way, though sometimes – hello 3DTV – it can miss the mark!”

Speaking of 3D TV, tech has even impacted the TV as a device. DVR-ready set top boxes eliminate the need to watch programming in real-time. Smart TVs — including platforms like Android TV — act as a convergence between television, set top boxes and computers. Service providers are even adapting their service offerings to placate increasingly tech-savvy consumers. Take Rogers’ TV Anywhere offering for example. It plays into a growing desire for ubiquitous TV content by offering simple, comprehensive, full season programming rights across all screens, including a customer’s computer, tablet, smartphone, Smart TVs or gaming system.

Heck, tech’s even changed the economics of TV.

“It’s allowed for new content owners to be heard by lowering the cost of entry and production, which broadens the selection and choice for viewers,” says Kines.

The immutable function 

“Television – the art form – is still all about storytelling, whether it be fact or fiction, long or short.”

All that said, there’s one thing that tech hasn’t changed and that’s TV’s fundamental nature, for television truly serves one primary and immutable function: storytelling.

“Television – the art form – is still all about storytelling, whether it be fact or fiction, long or short,” explains Kines. “It’s the imagination of these stories and their importance to be told that hasn’t changed since the first cavemen sat around campfires telling tales. Regardless of format, there needs to be a great story that is told well.”

Storytelling is the sticking point, the constant that’ll keep TV fundamentally the same. As Kines says, it’s the modern day campfire, a technological extrapolation of a human activity that’s eons old and crucially, inextricably tied to who and what were are as a species. Until a new type of medium is developed to allow humans to share stories with each other (a real-life holodeck or a shared mind interface perhaps?) TV, at its core, will never change.

About Jonathan Paul

Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based freelance writer who specializes in the Canadian advertising and marketing beat. He has written for major industry publications including Marketing and Strategy. At the latter he was senior writer for four years, crafting all sorts of stories on the advertising and marketing tactics of big brands including Microsoft, Coca-Cola, UFC Canada and Tim Hortons, all whilst keeping a finger on the pulse of international creativity, technology and trends. An avid scribe, both personally and professionally, he’s also an imagineer, information disseminator, media junkie, videogame enthusiast and, admittedly, a comic book nerd.

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