Digital Killed the Television Star

Posted in The Gnovis Blog

Is TV soon going to become another nostalgic relic of our technological past like radio stars or record players?

According to yesterday’s NY times article, Laura Holson would answer
that question in the affirmative. She explains, for her TV watching
habits, online sources are vastly superior. And the stats indicate that
online Office fanatics or laptop Lost addicts are an ever increasing

“NBC says 7 out of 10 viewers were spurred to watch some shows on
television only after sampling them first online. At ABC, 8 percent of
viewers they track — or about one out of every 12 people — watch
network shows solely online.”

Nielsen released a study from a couple of weeks ago offers further evidence of the popularity of online TV vegging.

“Unique viewers of video content at the four television networks
increased an average of 155 percent in September over the previous
month. In addition to new and favorite shows, coverage of the
presidential campaign and the financial crisis attracted viewers
online. And let’s not forget the comic relief.”

These studies indicate that the form of TV – sitcoms, anchor news,
daytime dramas, and reality TV – is alive and well in pop culture. At
the same time, computers may usurp the reign actual televisions have
enjoyed in the center of American living rooms. No longer are
televisions the primary burial ground where free time will go to die!

Even thought the price of flat screen TVs dropped last month. I will also speculate that this trend will continue for 2 reasons.

1 – Fears over the economy have already constricted consumer spending
which may affect this trend. Consumers have and will continue to spend
less, especially on non-essential items. For a large proportion of
Americans, students, professions, and nerds of all ages, a personal
computer is a necessity, not a luxury. I justify spending money on a
new computer because I must have one for work and it multitasks as my
primary time suck. Televisions, especially those big lovely flat
screens, are often perceived as non-essential leisure goods. We do not
work on our TV’s: we veg out. Because the computer integrates our work
tools and leisure tool, when money is short, we’ll still buy new
computers but may reconsider how essential the TV to American home.

2 – Televisions have only one function and at a time when my phone
can play videos, take photos, store my music and find the closest
Chinese take out, one function will not cut it. Both of TV and comupters are well adapt for mindless surfing, why should anyone
spend limited funds on a technology that can only perform one function?

But we are not exclusively technological determinist. Rather we have
an emotional attachment to this technology. For example, my fellow
Gnovis staffers, Jed, Margarita and I discussed shortly after the
election the authority televised news authorities wielded on election
night. Primetime televised news broadcasts were the authorities who
officially called the outcome of the election. Millions of us
religiously checked or other election
projection sites in the days and weeks leading up to the election. Despite this loyalty, 71 million people watched the election on TV, while at 9:46, an hour and 15 mins before MSNBC, blogger Nate Silver of called the election for
Obama online.

I had my laptop open and saw, still, I waited and watched. Along with
friends and millions of others at home and in bars, we waited for the
official call, and we watched on TV. While I am certain some people did
survive the evening without a TV, the reality of the event, the
authenticity of historic events, felt real on TV. Many of us have a
strong affective relationship with television that extends beyond the
technological pragmatics. These emotional ties may last longer then logic
dictates but will eventually fade. Televisions have become a foundational aspect of
popular culture and even our national identity, I wonder if this
nostalgic attachment will endure for a while?