Commentary

TV Gets Bigger -- And Smaller

I bought a new flatscreen. The one I had worked fine, but it seemed a bit on the older side. It didn’t have an ARC connection, so getting a new sound bar was going to be problematic.

Diving into the world of screens got me thinking about how much video has changed, with screens getting both bigger and smaller, and programs getting both longer and shorter.

Let’s start with screens. I got a 55” LG OLED after a brief flirtation with Samsung. Suffice it to say, the LG picture is dramatically better than my old screen. The images are dramatic, and the phrase 4K, which I understood technically but hadn’t really grocked aesthetically, is spectacular. And my old TV, while a flat screen, was “TV,” while the LG is much more of a theatrical experience.

I’m watching more feature films in a home theater setting, with 7.1 Surroundsound and films like "The Matrix" now being released on the same day in both theaters and on streaming services. Yes, I still go to the theater -- when COVID variants allow -- but certainly less. “Dune” was great in the theater. So was “Nightmare Alley.”  But for most of what is coming out of Hollywood these days, I’m increasingly happy with my new flatscreen.

So TV is getting bigger, and more like Hollywood.

But, at the same time, the nature of video consumption on the web has changed in measurable and remarkable ways.

Last week, in what has to be a surprise for lots of media makers and consumers, TikTok hit an extraordinary milestone, becoming the most popular website in the world. According to a recent report by web performance and security firm Cloudflare, TikTok beat Google in terms of internet traffic, to become the most-visited platform in the market in 2021.

If videos on streaming services are long, and getting longer, TikTok is the exact opposite. The Beatles documentary on Disney+ is 8 hrs long. TikTok videos are 15 seconds, with the length extended to 60 seconds, and for some users up to 3 minutes. But there’s risk in posting longer videos. On TikTok, it’s all about engagement, and completion rates, so the longer you go, the bigger the chance that people won’t stay engaged or finish watching.

Larger screens make the home video experience more like the theatrical experience -- certainly not the same, since you can pause it, answer the phone, check your email. Filmmakers say -- rightly so -- that the theatrical experience is about immersion, and home video is more trivial and less engaged. But fight as they will to keep serious film audiences, and blockbuster event films in theaters, my new LG TV tells me that the future of film is going to continue its shift to home theater viewing.

At the same time, the growth in mobile video -- as exemplified by TikTok’s unprecedented growth -- makes it clear that shorter video is also on a meteoric rise.TikTok’s revenue surpassed YouTube’s revenue. 56% of YouTube’s revenue comes from the United States while only 6% of TikTok’s $90.7 million in revenue comes from the U.S. as of 2020, according to Mediakix.

The growth in both big and small video is evidence of the relevance and rise of video as the predominant communication platform. Big films tell sweeping stories, while TikTok tells stories that are personal, and authentic. Both voices matter. And the idea of video as a teaching tool, a platform to show users how to solve problems, install software, and understand complex concepts, will only grow.

Video is bigger. Video is smaller. Video is immersive. Video is handheld.

Whatever story you want to tell, there’s a screen experience to tell it on.

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