Commentary

TV Viewing As The New Competition: Winner Gets To Watch More TV

With all the new programming competitions in the land of TV -- reality, sport or scripted - there's still not enough. We need a TV show that focuses on TV watching.

This comes to mind as CBS became the first broadcast network yesterday to air a tournament of video game players -- a taped program of something called the the World Series of Video Games held in Louisville, Ky. last month.

This isn't new. Cable networks like Spike, ESPN and G4 already air some of these competitions. But why stop there? If we can watch a bunch of people interacting with other people on TV screens, there's a lot more to go.

For instance, take a TV show about viewers watching a TV show like "Lost." How closely do they watch? Are they cool and composed while taking in the story? Do they exhibit model TV viewership? And, most important, are they going to the bathroom during the commercials?

Contestants could be on the set with Simon Cowell-like judges, who might moan: "Your TV watching was so karaoke! You are voted out of the TV room. Hand in your glasses."

You could then extend this to almost any screen: competitive Internet surfing, competitive emailing, and -- for those mobile screens lovers -- competitive text messaging (there is already a real contest for that one).

TV producers have seemingly run out of reality material -- singing ("American Idol"); dancing ("Dancing With the Stars," "So You Think You Can Dance,"); business gluttony ("The Apprentice"); and fashion designing ("Project Runway"), to name a few.

At home young adults regularly consume video games in a competitive format -- because that TV screen is interactive. But I know so many viewers who pride themselves on their TV knowledge, attentiveness -- and, dare I say it, comfortable, slouching couch posture.

Some would say this contest already exists - it's called the NTI sample provided by Nielsen Media Research. (Other new media researchers, such as IAG Research, might lay claim to some of this).

Now Nielsen just needs to put some TV cameras in some homes. Skewed research results? What's more important here, accurate TV research or widely compelling TV entertainment about TV viewing?

So sit back and relax, watching someone else watching.

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