The future of television: How long will your TV set still be relevant?

Watching shows on your tablet while your TV set is collecting dust? Producing short videos yourself? You’re not alone.

Entertainment is changing so rapidly that TV may soon be passé. Netflix has its own TV show (online). Amazon is planning to launch online entertainment. YouTube already has over one billion clicks per month and is rumoured to be planning the launch of a subscription service for several top channels.

“People are still watching as much TV as they used to, but they’re also migrating to niche entertainment,” explains Aymar Jean Christian, a professor of media, technology and society at Northwestern University in Illinois. “People like content that’s geared toward them. For example, there’s no TV show for gamers because they’re a niche audience, but on the Internet there are show channels geared toward them.”

And we’re migrating to smaller devices, too. “Entertainment is expanding from laptops and tablets to phones,” observes Alexander Halavais, president of the

Association of Internet Researchers. “You can already watch full-length movies on your phone. But most people don’t, so this has created a new genre: something between movie and still images.”

The Vine and Keek apps allow users to make six-second videos by splicing together

several images.

Smartphones with their built-in cameras, which can be directed toward the user more easily than cameras, will accelerate the citizen-producer boom. This me-focused, self-produced entertainment for niche audience is chipping at the near-monopoly of professionally made shows for a general public.

Notes Halavais: “People are at an event, capture the event with their camera phones and then turn the camera to themselves to show their reaction. You could say,

‘Why would it be interesting to see people’s reaction to an event?’ but that’s the same thing many of us said when Twitter was born...”

Viewers are becoming involved with TV shows, too, submitting plot ideas and even funding films, as was the case with the Veronica Mars movie. And there will always be a niche for professionally-made shows. Observes Prof. Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse

University: “Many of my students don’t even have a TV set in their homes — they watch shows online. But TV isn’t dead just because the distribution has changed.”

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