At the dawn of the TV age, only one or two families in the average neighborhood had access to a television set. Owning a television was a sign of wealth, luxury and success. Today, owning a television is a given. Not owning a television is considered strange, a sign of social withdrawal and eccentricity. In our mobile world, even the definition of television has evolved. Between our laptop computers, notebooks, tablets and smartphones, on-screen entertainment has become as ubiquitous as 1960s cigarettes–and perhaps as addictive. But what does our multi-screen world mean for the future of television, and how did technology bring us to this point?
The Evolution of the Multi-screen
It started, in many ways, with YouTube. Viewed through desktop computers rather than television screens, YouTube’s instant video streaming and rapid popularity boom demonstrated a public demand for click-of-a-button entertainment that traditional television could not fulfill. As mobile technology began to enable on-the-go web-based streaming, computer-grounded companies such as Netflix and Hulu gained steamrolling popularity, creating a climate in which traditional television networks had to begin, for the first time in decades, to compete for the attention of the American public.
With web-based television a fully established platform, traditional television networks quickly adapted to the world of mobile entertainment, providing on-demand mobile streaming to cable subscribers. This final meshing of the web and network television led to the on-the-go entertainment that we enjoy today; entertainment that can be carried in our pockets, shared with friends, or played on a 42-inch screen.
The Sociality of Television
An often underestimated player in the world of television, social media has performed its part in transforming television-watching from a solitary to a social activity. Between popular shows “trending” on Twitter, dominating Facebook newsfeeds, and generating Netflix suggestions, television has become a more interactive experience than ever before. Even when you watch your favorite show alone, you’re now watching it with others. To perpetuate this sociality, television shows, network providers and movie producers alike frequently kickstart social campaigns, designed to generate internet buzz and keep the hashtags coming.
The Future of On-Screen Entertainment
The evolution of television is far from over, and its growth potential stretches from app-based television stations to an immersive virtual reality experience. Consider the impact that emerging projects such as Google Glass could have on the world of television–bringing virtual interactions one step closer than ever before. As entertainment demands become gratifiable in–literally–the blink of an eyelid, the worlds of social media and on-screen entertainment will doubtless become more closely linked than ever before. Does this mean that the flat screen tv in your living room will become obsolete in the next three years? No, but in the immediate future you can expect to see it outstripped by 3D television technology and modern projectors. Your cable box, however, is another story entirely. Kiss it a fond goodbye now, because it won’t be around for long. As more and more television networks go mobile, the internet will be all you need to enable your immersive entertainment experience.