TV Is Dead; Long Live TV

My wife and I have lived without a television set for some years. Yet we watch quite a few television programs online. Within the last couple weeks, we’ve watched the latest episode of Dollhouse at Hulu (and the sixth episode is the best yet), the first two episodes of Castle (starring another of Joss Whedon’s stars, Nathan Fillion, in a pretty good show from ABC), and the pilots of Buck Rogers, The Incredible Hulk, and Airwolf, all three childhood favorites.

After we ditched our TV we relied largely on Netflix to watch television shows that had come out on disk. Just tonight we watched a classic movie, Time After Time (in which H. G. Wells chases Jack the Ripper to 1979), online through Netflix, which also offers many television shows online.

The local television news stations offer much of their video online as well. And of course individuals and organizations can make available video for practically no marginal cost through YouTube.

The online viewing quality is sometimes superb though sometimes jumpy (especially through Netflix). I get the idea, then, that the main trouble is with the software rather than with the bandwidth. (A note to TV stations: people won’t be as willing to watch your shows if you make us download a bunch of BS “protection” software that screws with our machines.)

We’ve watched television shows on iTunes, but at $1.99 a pop we’d usually prefer to “pay” for our viewing by watching cheesy ads.

I am just stunned by the rapid progress of online video. I still remember watching Tron at my first VHS party. It was a huge, rented machine that popped open from the top, daring us to insert the video tape. (Tron came out in 1982, about a decade before the World Wide Web took off.)

Given the advantages of being able to watch the show I want to watch when I want to watch it, I don’t see how the online video industry will do anything other than explode in growth. I don’t need cable, I don’t need specialized recording machines. I just need my Mac and my Comcast internet connection. (Comcast also offers cable TV, which I’m rarely tempted to purchase.)

I hate TV, but I love (some) television. I wonder how long it will take for the total integration of media.