Xu: Is the Internet replacing TV?

The pace of modern life has accelerated with time. As a society, we spend less time sitting down and more time moving from place to place. When we do sit down, it’s most likely in front of a computer. This is especially true for us students — the younger generation — who are now entering mainstream adult life. So where, then, does television fit into this equation?

We grew up watching TV. For me, at least, Saturday morning cartoons became a tradition. After-school shows, too, were hard to skip. Missing “The Magic School Bus” was almost as bad as missing the actual school bus. Yet today, few of us find the time to sit down and watch TV regularly. What was once a daily event has now dwindled to sporadic viewings, governed not by TV Guide but by our own schedules. I may say that I can’t possibly miss the next episode of “The Office,” but when Thursday night rolls around, I often find myself too busy to sit down.

I’m not alone in this sentiment; other Yalies interviewed expressed similar views.

“I don’t watch TV very often,” Santiago Correa ’12 said. “I don’t have time to adhere to its strict schedule.”

But perhaps that sense of busyness is a product of our circumstances. High school and college are certainly a great deal busier than the earlier years of our lives. TV is still filled with a lineup of popular shows, which would not exist if there weren’t a steady viewership.

That said, there’s no denying that television is losing its place at the center of domestic life. The computer, along with the Internet, is taking over. Families that used to huddle around the television set are now split across the house.

Now, just as television replaced the radio decades ago, the computer is replacing TV.

It’s only natural, then, that the next revolution — and, perhaps, the last — in television is at the hands of the Internet. Hulu.com, a joint venture by NBC and Fox, is a prime example of this web-based revolution. It offers nearly every show on NBC and Fox, along with some other channels, for free. Episodes are often released a day after they air on TV. There is no strict schedule to follow, no time to block off for a specific show. There are also shorter commercial breaks — fifteen to thirty seconds rather than the three-minute breaks on TV. Because it’s possible to determine exact viewership online, Hulu can sell concrete blocks of ads, which generates just as much, if not more, revenue as the traditional television commercial.

There’s a fast-approaching future in which TV shows become Internet shows, and we no longer have to get our weekly hour of satisfaction at a specific day and time. There are already “made-for-Internet” shows, such as the made-for-MySpace show “QuarterLife” and Joss Whedon’s serial Web musical “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.”

With the steady increase in Web speeds, the video quality of online content is also quickly eclipsing that of cable. In that future, televisions could stream their content not from cable or satellite providers, but from the Internet — straight from the source. When NBC streamed the Beijing Olympics live from their Web site, the first bell tolled for traditional television. As more made-for-Internet shows emerge, the ringing will continue.

The last bell, the death knell of TV, will ring when we are watching live events, newscasts, and even “Good Morning” America on our laptops or cell phones — whenever, wherever we want.

TIM XU is a freshman in Branford.

Comments

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