Commentary

TV Everywhere: How Exhausting!

I used to work for a publisher whose favorite joke to tell to audiences was: "This just in: the good news: they have finally developed an airplane powered by electricity ... the bad news is that it requires a 30,000 foot extension cord."

I kind of felt that way when I read the news that Verizon had unveiled a series of new video applications, including an upcoming iPad app that will allow FiOS subscribers to watch the same linear programming that is available on their TV screens on their tablet devices.

Then came the bad (or perhaps more appropriately, the stupid, news) At first, subscribers with an iPad will only be able to watch linear programming within their own home, which allows Verizon to authenticate and make certain that the users have access to whatever content they've paid for.

I guess this now just opens the pool deck and front yard up for TV viewing, but in all fairness it is yet another step toward being able to watch linear TV anywhere and anytime. Meanwhile the AP reports that more folks are time shifting than ever before so they can watch what they want in the comfort of their bedrooms or family rooms on the big screen, as god intended. But, I suppose if you are so mentally or emotionally tethered to TV, being able to watch it everywhere is somehow good news. But is scares the hell out of me.

Just a week ago we were driving up with Shenandoah Valley flanked by the Blue Ridge Mountains (hardly the Cascades, but worth an occasional look) and four teenagers with noses buried in various electronic devices never once looked up. Not as the shrouding mist rose to reveal the mountains, nor when the sun struck them to reveal their emerald beauty. My monologue on the various Civil War battles fought along the route (including Antietam for god's sake) fell on deaf ears (even my wife's who was conducting her own businesses on various begged, borrowed or stolen cell phones depending on which service delivered the best reception in the that part of the hinterlands at any given moment.)

My kids are pissed when we don't fly Jet Blue because of the TV screens at every seat. They can be (and in fact were) in a car for 14 hours and with the exception of bathroom breaks, never once paused from watching DVDs or other programming they downloaded on their iPods. With ear buds affixed, there was little to no point in mentioning landmarks and sights of interest along the route. And nary a dead tree page was turned in a magazine or, gasp, a book. There was nothing communal in their experience with never more than 2 of the 4 watching or listening to the same thing. The only sound issued from the back seats was an occasional guffaw or an off-note stanza of music. All the next generation needs is another electronic reason to shut out the rest of the world.

Thanks to flat panel technology TV screens are ubiquitous. In fact you are hard pressed to go anywhere and not have a TV screen nearby. My gym has as many TVs as it does Stairmasters or cross trainers as if everyone has the individual right to watch what THEY want right here and right now. Although I confess I have learned a few cooking tips since I am too lazy to turn the channels back to ESPN when the woman leave in the mornings. Since there is only one screen in the locker room there is a constant switching battle between the networks that track the movement of the stock market, those with what they laughingly call breaking news: "We go now to Butte, where a truck has overturned spilling potatoes across the north bound lanes of the interstate...." and whoever likes old TV series like The Andy Griffith Show and Perry Mason. There is one guy who even turns it off every time he walks by.

But I digress. We already have millions of faces buried in hand held electronics shutting out almost all possibility of social intercourse or precluding witnesses to a crime (or even noticing the setting sun). Taking a break from watching TV is not a bad thing. It is a great thing. But I am sure when TV everywhere happens, there will be people "glued to the set" no matter where they go. We can only hope that does not include behind the wheel of a car.

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6 comments about "TV Everywhere: How Exhausting!".
  1. Sean Smith from Horizon Media , August 20, 2010 at 9:27 a.m.

    This is exactly what I fear and will do everything to prevent when my daughter gets a little older! Good article nontheless

  2. Bill Gloede from the late Mediaweek , August 20, 2010 at 9:37 a.m.

    George: Get yourself a small, poorly shielded 12-vote fan, either a really old one or a new one from China, and run it under the seat where the family can't see it. It will block nearly all electronic communication.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , August 20, 2010 at 9:53 a.m.

    Why are you spending money on your kids vacations if they don't pay attention? They want electronics on your bill with your checks? They can work for them by volunteering by delivering food and cleaning up trash in the trailer park homes in the Blue Ridge Mountains. No respect, no gratefullness = no rewards. More pets, less kids ......

  4. Julie Piepenkotter from FX Networks , August 20, 2010 at 12:02 p.m.

    Really great essay -- thank you, George! Managing life with screens is no better analyzed or contextualized than in the new best-selling book, "Hamlet's BlackBerry" by William Powers. Besides being wise and smart in putting today's tech-driven era in compelling historical perspective, it's beautifully written and accessible to all. Matter of fact, Peggy Noonan gives it a rave in today's (Friday, 8/20/10) Wall Street Journal.

  5. fred siegel , August 20, 2010 at 2:43 p.m.

    Hey wait, I was driving that car too. In anticipation of 12 hours driving with my family, by myself, I picked up an audiobook and caught up on some podcasts...we did finally talk to each other at our destination.

  6. Angelique Creatively from AFMarCom , September 30, 2010 at 5:45 p.m.

    Your wife got to use an electronic device on a vacation? How did the kids allow that to happen? Here is my experience with electronic devices now that I have commandeered by daughter's old iPod:

    Family is on plane; husband and daughter have the usual assortment of iTouches, computers, electronic games, magazines and work, which normally keeps them occupied for hours. I decide, for the first time, to listen to music. I start up the iPod, and instantly: "Mom?" "Honey?" "Mom, look at this!" "Honey, read this!" "Mom, play this game!" "Honey, watch this!" They don't stop until I physically put the iPod away, after which they don't need me anymore. I put the iPod on again: "Honey?" "Mom?" "Honey?" "Mom?"

    The same thing happens at home. No one needs me until 60 seconds after I turn on the iPod, and they need me for exactly however long it would have taken me to listen to something.