Holiday TV Past, Present And Future

When Charles Dickens penned A Christmas Carol, he created the ultimate and original Grinch in Ebenezer Scrooge--a man so set against anything that could be construed as kind, generous or charitable in the supposed season of goodwill that it fell to the spirit world to set him straight. Only after morbid and pathos-ridden visitations from the spirits of Christmas past, present and future does Scrooge see the error of his ways and the reader get to see a happy ending.

This most traditional of Christmas stories set me to thinking about how television and its role within the holiday season has evolved over the years and where it might be going: holiday TV past, present and future, if you will. Here are a few thoughts and observations--not exhaustive, so feel free to contribute your own:

Holiday TV Past: Macy's Thanksgiving Day parades; football; social viewing in one room; appointment viewing of seasonal specials (Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin, Bob Hope); "It's A Wonderful Life"(black & white); fewer channels, less content; TV Guide in print; one color screen; the broadcast schedule determining when you watched your programs of choice.

Holiday TV Present: Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade; football; dispersed viewing throughout the house--in the family room (biggest screen), bedroom (other TVs, and computer), anywhere (computer and other devices facilitated by a wireless network or simply off the hard drive); movies of your choice on DVD; appointment viewing on the DVR--maybe in social groups; too many channels, too much content; repeats of this season's hits; "It's A Wonderful Life" (colorized).

Holiday TV Future: EBay Thanksgiving Day Parade (bid on the floats via the TV); Interactive Football (vote for MVP, replay action etc.); Broadcast schedule--what broadcast schedule? Now it's a TV seasonal favorites list for the user-generated schedule of professionally produced programs and movies for the season (accessible at any time on any screen and throughout the house via a wireless network--all of which has replaced the DVR); live online gaming tournaments (Halo 6) viewed by around 30,000 people, who pay for designated places in-game; IPTV; GoogleTV as your home page (like Google News, only for TV content and reviews); live and on-demand content on the cell phone complementing larger screen experiences; "It's A Wonderful Life" (high-def).

All of the changes we've seen to date and all of the changes we can speculate about impact not only the businesses of television, advertising etc., but also the holiday season's social experiences within which all media find their place. Growing up, my mother would have to factor the timing of must-see family viewing into the timing of Christmas dinner. Now we have the DVR.

The changes to come also suggest that the word "TV" is certainly destined for the dictionary of historical terms like "horseless carriage" and "picture radio."

While many people put forward the view that more media and media devices lead to less social interaction, it is easy to see how the advent of the DVR facilitates the reintroduction of social viewing around particular favorite programs, and how the increase in wireless networks, home network servers, etc., can achieve the same (people using the laptop in the family room, not the office. etc.).

What do you think? What will our Holiday TV Future look like? Will it make the holidays more or less sociable as we are freed from the schedules? Or will we be driven further apart by the increased ability to immerse ourselves in our own little media cocoons?

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