That is the question, literally, which we will be facing for the rest of the decade– a silent question which no one dares to ask, and even less people dare to answer.
When I graduated from MIT fifteen years ago, it was easy to claim with absolute certainty that television was a dying medium. It was as easy to predict it’s future, as it was to imagine what will happen to fax machines after receiving first email from Grandma.
Internet-delivered video was going to replace TV, of course, just as soon as bandwidth got up to speed. What would you rather do – chose your own entertainment, of watch some dumb TV channel programmed for the masses ? Moreover, even if you would rather “lean back”, there will be a million of others wishing to program your experience for you, and TV distribution paradigm is much too constraining for that. The advent of YouTube channels, on-demand services, from Hulu to Netfilx, and overwhelming statistics of youngster watching video mostly on PC or tablet have all but confirmed what by now has become a commonplace observation: traditional TV days are counted.
Having personally made a living of the “forget linear TV” paradigm, I found myself going from iconoclast to someone practically boring in a span of a decade. In light of the latest industry convention where every suit and tie brandished a tablet in my face, trying to show me his on-demand video service, I have decided to adopt an alternative stance: television is our future.
I have several reasons for so drastically changing my beliefs. First of all, experience has taught me that things are never what they seem. It has also taught me that suits and ties at conventions are always wrong, eagerly jumping on the bandwagon of the past.
Most importantly however, I changed my mind about what TV actually stands for. As an idealistic student, I though of it as an industry of channels, broadcasting content that has to meet their economic objectives, and therefore either appeal to the lowest common denominator or serve a set of ideological maxims defined by the state that gives the channel money. As someone who set out to build an on-demand portal, and ended up with a TV channel, I now see that things are much more simple.
TV is a large screen that sits in your living room, around which you and your family or friends gather at night, when you have nothing better to do. Seen from this perspective, TV is the only thing that will survive – although it will probably get much, much bigger – when your current smart-phone will start looking like a 90s Nokia, and your iPad will be replaced by transparent screens emerging holographically at a snap of a finger, kind of like of Princess Leila transmissions in Star Wars.
The television set will still be there in a hundred years, but it will broadcast channels made just for you, with advertisement aimed just at you , and prime time designed around your unique schedule. I do still sincerely hope for the death of the industry that has created the Kardashians, but with my newfound wisdom I must acknowledge that even that is not a given.