The Forest From The TVs

Question: If a TV were to be plugged into an outlet, next to the proverbial tree falling in the forest -- you know the one; the one that nobody hears -- would the broadcast qualify as "TV"?

This query has really helped me come to grips with the question, "What is TV -- REALLY?"

And doesn't TV require an audience, in fact, a mass audience, to REALLY be TV?

TV has always defined itself at the intersection of time and real estate. It's that cubby in the primary focal point of the house, in the armoire at the foot of the bed, or in the corner of the gym. But it's also a human allocation of attention to a one-way televisual communication -- one that historically generates internalized emotions, and on rare occasion, reaction.

But in each and every instance and location, the element most necessary to qualify as TV, is an audience. And as the mass audience continues to dwindle, so, too, does TV's very existence (and its definition) become less meaningful.

Despite Les Moonves' cheerleading that "the model ain't broken," TV is, at a minimum, a medium that has lost its identity by allowing itself to be too many things to too many people. What it has failed to do is to fully embrace and enable communication among its consumers, its entertainers, and its sponsors.

Beyond the abysmal state (and credibility) of its accounting and metrics, any honest student of media must acknowledge that TV is losing audience to the Internet -- the one televisual medium that provides searchable choice, intuitive transactional functionality, and perhaps most importantly, the ability for the dispersed audience to be heard, at least a little bit.

I've always contended that the single greatest opportunity we have to grow together as a country, to unite, and to learn, is to interact during the time we all spend together, alone, allowing televisual stimulation to be siphoned into our silent skulls.

Picture the bleary eyed masses in a darkened room, with the wash of flickering light glistening off the shadowed silhouettes... and virtually duct-taped mouths.

That's TV to too many people.

It's time we took off the tape, passed the interactive remote controls (the ones with thumb pads), and lifted the plastic shroud covering the little camera mounted on top of that TV monitor.

If TV is to truly regain its role, as Mike Bloxam refers to it, as the "big daddy of media," TV is going to have to allow people to react, and receive in return, AT MINIMUM, an acknowledgment that they have been heard.

A fifty cent text message voting for David Cook does not communication make.

It used to be acceptable that TV was not a two-way medium. I think that needs to change -- NOW. That limitation must be quickly addressed by the powers that be, because what ultimately defined "TV" was the "TV" device itself. With the digital-analog transition countdown now reduced to double digits, the TV will, for most people, soon become merely another "dumb" device with speakers -- a monitor with multiple inputs, for all intents and purposes. And like every other monitor we own, its usefulness is linked to the enabling hardware attached to it.

Truth be told, it's always been about the hardware. While the cable or satellite TV set top box tends to grab input A, as these monitors leave room for other connections, the threat to TV will continue to come from devices that provide for the most important input of all: CONSUMER INPUT.

The hardware device that I think is the most threatening of all is the "video game console," particularly the X-Box 360. The darn thing should come packaged in a wood veneer finish, shaped like a horse. You call it a video game console? Yeah, sure -- and Bill Gates is a great programmer.

Keep telling yourself it's a game console when you watch your first Netflix X-Box download, talk to your friends via X-Box live, or, someday in the not-too-distant-future, play an advertising-supported game show like ReacTV, competing with 10 million other connected players in the audience.

Do you see those USB ports in the front of the X-Box? See that Wi-Fi window? Recognize that removable hard drive? Ever seen coaxial and HDMI feeds anywhere else?

These are connections. Inputs. Gateways.

With real people attached to them.

You might call them "gamers." I call them an audience.


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2 comments about "The Forest From The TVs".
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  1. Timothy Mcdonald from XOT Productions & ABI Consultants , December 12, 2008 at 12:38 p.m.

    First allow me to make a statement that sounds like a self congratulatory self absorbed I told you so, and point out that although you don't know me...I've been saying this for years. IN fact I believe that TV execs have been cutting their nose to spite their revenue faces for years by not fully embracing the vague symantic differences between cable / sattelite tv and the internet. The X-Box may be nice by the way, but it has no Blue Ray player while the Playstation does all of the things you mention, but also delivers in a single device, the industry standard for Movie distribution for the time being. If I have a big screen lcd in the living room, and it is plugged into a cable box, a playstation, and the internet all at the same time, and I pay the cable company for both the the internet and the cable programming; What am I watching when I watch an episode of Lost from Am I watching the internet, or am I watching TV? The wife doesn't care...she just wants me to shut up about convergence and enjoy the show. The short answer is, get over your self moonvies, and buy into the idea that we don't care what you call it, only that the programming is good. Diller got in trouble once for saying there was a finite number of people talented enough to deliver good content, and I think he was right on. The mass audience doesn't care who they pay for the signal, which box translates it for the monitor, only that the content is watchable, and since few can actually acomplish that, The networks weather its broadcast ABS or will continue to thrive...if they can get their heads out of the ludite dirt and quit worrying about what it's called and just start programming across the mediums without bias. Then your game show will be a raging success.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , December 12, 2008 at 5:39 p.m.

    We listen, see and react to al kinds of stuff on a box at home or office. KISS