Doom and Gloom for the Television

Doom and Gloom for the Television

It turns out that TV sets are a dying breed, soon to be replaced by just about anything so long as it’s mobile. At least, that’s according to Kotaku, but frankly, the pronouncement just doesn’t jibe.

In a post called “The Coming Death of TV,” Stephen Totilo announces that, based on of his daily usage of mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, the idea of owning a television (i.e. a display that families gather around somewhere in the house) will be laughable in a short period of time, even in just a few years.

I used to think it would take maybe 50 years until we reached the day people would laugh when reminded that human beings of the year 2013 had television sets. Lately, I’ve been expecting that laughter to come even sooner. Maybe in a decade. Maybe not even that long from now.

Do you see it, too? The meteor is coming, and I think my TV is too much of a dinosaur to get out of the way.

I once would have considered the extinction of the television an absurdity. Now, I look at it as an inevitability. My TV sits on an entertainment center in my living room, usually turned off. I glance at it with pity. It seems to me that the TV set is going to be outlived by the refrigerator, the microwave and the dishwasher.

I haven’t stopped watching television programming.

I haven’t stopped playing video games at home.

I haven’t stopped seeing what’s on HBO or CNN or the Daily Show.

I just don’t use my TV for much of that.

Setting aside for a moment how much of the reasoning for this conclusion relies entirely on personal preference, especially with regards to movie watching, the conclusion disregards an intrinsic aspect of watching the same content on the same screen at the time as another person. That’s true for friends, spouses, children, classmates, co-workers, fellow inmates, etc. Now if, as Totilo says, this gathering around a single display role that has been occupied by TVs is sure to be displaced by future wall-projecting iPads, how does that make TV a dinosaur?

If you define TV solely as a box that picks up content over the air, a box that requires its own special room and isn’t touch-enabled or capable of computer media playback or in any way hooked into the internet, then guess what, that’s already dead, and it didn’t take a smartphone or tablet to kill it.

For me, the TV is a display just like a PC monitor, and the TV tuner has long been a joke. Ever since the establishment of the internet and PCs in the home, both devices, both ways of delivering and consuming content, have been converging. The fact that these content delivery systems are now more mobile than ever just heightens that convergence. YouTube wants to be on your TV, and HBO wants to be on your tablet. Until watching something with another person means that you access your separate screens, the idea of having a TV area of your home will continue to be as ubiquitous as ever.

If anything, large, fixed displays like TVs are moving towards ever more kinds of ways to display content from any mobile device. For those of us tied to computers 24/7, the luxury of the living room remains important, no matter how infrequent its use. At least that’s my take, but perhaps I’m living in the past. Are any of our readers ready to dispense with TVs? Do you already find watching something with another human being an archaic notion?


  1. JM

    My total video/game consumption is 2000 hours per year. 500 hours happens on the TV. 200 hours is shared with others. So I guess I’m 90% alone.

    Maybe when Sony’s virtual reality visor is 8K, as light as sunglasses, and wireless, then the home theater will go away, replaced with personally customized IMAX. But it won’t be a paradigm shift until augmented reality works with mind control and surpasses the uncanny valley. Will that take 50 years?

  2. EM

    “Computer, activate holosuite.”

    But note that even the various Enterprises each have a humongous HDTV on the bridge!

  3. Tv is killing tv. Excessive commercials – the 1-hour timeslot is getting smaller and smaller. Some channels are even doing picture-in-picture commercials now, wtf? Excessive pop-up and banner ads. Animated channel logos to distract you from the show. Extra crap in 2 or 3 of the other corners of the screen that never goes away until 2 seconds before a commercial break.
    I have zero interest in watching tv shows on an 8 inch screen, thank you very much.

  4. William Henley

    When I saw “doom and gloom”, i was thinking of broadcast programming. I stream or download all my shows, and use my television mainly to watch movies or as a secondary display to my PC. Can’t remember when was the last time I watched live television (at home).

    I rarely watch stuff on my phone, unless I simply don’t have any other option. In fact, with unlimited 4G data, I usually tether my tablett to it to watch some SD Netflix stuff (watching some 80s and 90s TV shows I never saw during their original airing – falling in love with Buffy, Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica (the original)).

    When I am at home, my television set is almost always on (except when I am sleeping, and even then, sometimes it is on if I fall asleep on the couch). Now, I may be watching a movie, Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, or Youtube, but the set is still there, still on.

    Now I have reduced the number of sets in my house. The best decision I ever made was to get the television OUT Of the bedroom. I am sleeping better, less stress, reading more. If I am in bed, and absolutely have to watch something, I pull out my tablett, but that rarely happens.

  5. August Lehe

    If you mean tv…like networks and cable and such…then that means a little 15-incher mounted high in the bedroom…otherwise, if you mean my 50-inch 1080 (ok, someday a 70-inch 4k) which projects my collection of Blu Rays via my OPPO Player in my library, pretending to be a Loew’s State or Loew’s Cinerama circa 1964….only with two leather recliners…then that’s something else. p.s. Josh’s misadventures in building a deluxe Home Theater break my heart, too!

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