Curious Rat

The Television Revolution →

Ben Bajarin:

The key to thinking about the future of TV is to understand that the TV set itself will remain a communal and shared screen. But our personal devices, like tablets and smartphones, will increasingly become the avenues by which what we watch on the big screen becomes personal and even intimate. Of course both these screens will still function as independent entertainment experiences, but the real revolution will come when you use them together.

Bajarin is right - the revolution will take place on the smaller screens in our pockets, not the giant TVs in our living rooms, but I don’t like the idea of using a phone and/or tablet in conjunction with the TV during the watching experience.

For example, certain channels with companion apps let you tune-in and chat with other viewers while you watch. This sounds like a fun idea - read what others think about the latest episode of Modern Family or The Walking Dead while it airs.

But I don’t care what other people think about a particular episode (during or afterwards) and I certainly don’t need to read their opinions while I’m engrossed in a character’s arc or plotline. If the TV revolution means pulling me out of the drama, then I abstain courteously from the new television age.

However, Bajarin cites the Colbert Report app as a good example of TV apps done right and I agree. Being able to see upcoming guests and specific clips without having to scour the Hulu app or YouTube is easy, but does this mean every show will need its own app?

Or perhaps channels can take a page from Bravo’s playbook with its Bravo Now iOS app. The app lets viewers watch clips, read blogs, tweet, comment, and get as close as possible to the manufactured drama on cable television’s Colosseum.

As the one-star reviews for the AMC iPad app claim, the app is “worthless” because it doesn’t offer streaming the way the HBO Go app does, but HBO Go doesn’t offer nearly the level of interactivity as the stand-alone HBO app. Why not combine the two into one fully interactive experience?

If the television revolution is going to take place on tablets, phones and computers, and cable companies are truly scared of cord cutters, then maybe a future where channels can be individually subscribed to on non-TV devices isn’t so far away. We’ll watch the shows we want when we want them on only the channels we pay for and when they’re over, we’ll talk about them with other viewers in-app.

The television provides a local communal viewing experience. The Web provides a global one. Just don’t bother me while my show is on.