Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Future of Television

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  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Danielle,

    What does “passive” mean in this context?

    For me it means that the TV is on and I'm vaguely aware of the program but I'm also doing something else at the same time. Preping dinner or loading the dishwasher or tweeting or reading PAS or reading Metro or ...

    It isn't the whole of my attention and even at times not the majority of my attention, but it is on and I can probably tell you what happened in the last 5 minutes.

    But that isn't true for all of the mainstream TV that I watch. And what is passive for me is active for someone else in the house and vice versa.

    That might not be what Jason meant though.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand, in reply to Danielle,

    I agree, Danielle. It is a cliche and a misrepresentation of what happens when we watch television. You might well argue that reading a book or staring at Youtube clips is 'passive'. I have done a sizeable bunch of research on TV audiences along the way and 'passive' they ain't -- from deep engagement with Breaking Bad, to complaining loudly about the product placement (and whiney Alice) on The Block.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2558 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Danielle,

    What does “passive” mean in this context? People don’t think about it? People don’t discuss it? People don’t deliberately seek it out? People who watch mainstream TV aren’t very bright?

    By passive, I suspect it means "narrow attention span".

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5430 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Danielle,

    What does “passive” mean in this context? People don’t think about it? People don’t discuss it? People don’t deliberately seek it out? People who watch mainstream TV aren’t very bright?

    It's the veg out thing. For a lot of people TV is something to unwind. They want to be entertained without having to engage much. This brings us easy to digest entertainment (various types of reality most obviously) but it's also a problem for broadcasters, because it makes viewers even less likely to pay attention to ads.

    Within the TV industry there's a frantic struggle to understand a concept often called "transmedia" (or the more easily understood, "second screen experience"). Basically it's been widely observed in many many studies that people are now, almost more often than not, watching TV while using another device - phone, tablet, laptop.

    Having identified this, the broadcasters and producers are trying to come up with ways to occupy both screens. The idea being that you're watching a TV show and using the show's app/website to further engage with the story and, crucially, advertisers. It's a huge emerging industry.

    Of course I think it's fatally flawed because the point of using the second screen is to multi-task. It's viewers doing other things while they watch. Although it should be noted that #hashtags are related to this idea, and quite successful. The difference being that they engage viewers within one of the activities they are already engaging in while viewing, rather than trying to displace those activities.

    Interestingly, on-demand services (like Netflix and Hulu) get much higher engagement - people aren't watching as passively - because viewers are actively seeking specific content in their own time.

    People think the internet is the future of TV. I think that's ultimately undeniable, but it's the matter of what form that will take. There's a perception that we'll lose the idea of linear programming and everything will become non-linear on-demand like Netflix or YouTube.

    I don't think that's true. For the people who are using TV simply as a form of passive entertainment the idea of having to seek and choose specific content is alienating. Remember the feeling of frustration when you walk into the video store and can't even decide where to begin looking? Imagine that every time you sit down to watch the "boob tube" after a long day at work.

    Ultimately there's a lot to be said for being able to sit down and flick through random channels until you find something interesting. But that's augmented beautifully by having an almost infinite video library at your fingertips too. It doesn't have to be one or the other. It's just a matter of figuring out how those two models co-exist.

    What were we talking about again?

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • bmk, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    Agree with everything you said. General broadcast TV - I 'watch' either reading a book or browsing on my laptop/iPad/smart phone. It just doesn't interest me enough to have my sole attention - or sometimes it does but then an ad comes on and there's no way I'm going to sit and watch ads for three minutes so I pick up whatever device/book is closest to me ...

    And as you point out content I've specifically chosen such as GoT or Breaking Bad I will sit and watch without interruption but then again there are no ads. So I'm not sure if it's the ads that cause me to two-screen or the nature of the content. I think it's a bit of both really, no matter how compelling the content I will dual-screen if there are ads. If the content has no ads but isn't that compelling I will also dual-screen.

    For something to have my sole, undivided attention it has to be both ad-free and highly interesting.

    Since Jun 2010 • 327 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Kemp, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    Thanks everyone re the "passive" idea. I did mean that TV is a kind of moving wallpaper that is on while people wash the dishes or cook or whatever.

    No reflection on the watchers but where I was going with that is some (most?) viewers will watch anything that is on - even if they channel surf.

    An "active" viewer is someone who picks programmes to watch & generally stops doing other things while they are on.

    Broadcasters have programme managers and I think where some of us are heading is that that we can programme our own channels from global sources especially online streams of some kind.

    TV is a huge cultural force and our connections to it are many and varied. Some people like to vege out and use tv for escape others are explorers who see a tv screen as a pathway to other content they can programme themselves.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 368 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Kemp,

    Here is a comment by Mark Cuban

    "TV is becoming a social activity that takes little effort or thought. Vegetate in front of the tube with your mobile device on your lap while you tweet/txt/email/post wherever. Now you are part of the conversation without disturbing the blanket keeping your feet warm.

    To be part of the conversation you have to be watching what your friends/followers/you follows are watching at the same time."

    the comment comes from a different conversation
    Why TV everywhere will kill what’s best about TV

    In my experience watching the back channel of hashtags for a popular programme is almost better than the programme directly. It is another way of engaging.

    I was also thinking that the product placement on some shows esp the BlockNZ was so overwhelming that there has to be a backlash.

    When Advertising No Longer Works

    I can understand the funding pressures on making TV in a small population and that is a key part of the topic here. What are the business models when you are in the minority audience?

    I think we can sidestep most of the content supply questions by going online but readily admit that is not good for our own cultural curation.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 368 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Kemp, in reply to Danielle,

    Not really any of those. More that many just turn on the TV and then watch whatever is on regardless and that often they use the Tv as a backdrop to other activities.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 368 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Kemp, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    Awesome Dylan. Wish I’d read your comments before I added more. You nailed what I was thinking re the veg out thing.

    However I like picking my own content regardless of what that is. I have often ended up as the DJ at the party. Its the same with TV and I never have any trouble picking content. However that content is mostly not mainstream.

    I’m almost certainly not a typical tv viewer. I don’t watch sports as a rule and would watch almost any movie before a tv programme. I have rated more than 500 films on IMDB and while that took more than 30 years to watch ; a lot of that has come from the video store and more lately itunes or similar

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 368 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    mainstream commercial music in 1976

    Media engagement was way less fragmented then than now. Any sort of widespread outrage is hard to induce. Though our glorious govt achieved it by threatening to mine in national parks.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19719 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    For the people who are using TV simply as a form of passive entertainment the idea of having to seek and choose specific content is alienating.

    though peer-curation is now an option, rather than everyone relying on the same 'programmer' to decide what they'll like next.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19719 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    I have a colleague who reaches Classics

    high shelves are high

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19719 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to David MacGregor,

    All this whinging about TV makes me wonder if anyone is out there dancing to architecture?

    Lou's ex

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19719 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    They want to be entertained without having to engage much.

    This is a fairly common theory of television, but ever since I started thinking about this stuff I've always been pretty suspicious of it. As a theory it often has some weirdly classist undertones (not necessarily in this thread, though). I think that television audiences even before this brave new timeshifted/ad-removable world of ours have both deliberately engaged with what's on screen - MST3K is a perfect sort of meta-example - and rejected advertising as best they could. (At our house we always turned the sound off when the ads came on, for example, before we had the technology to record and fast-forward through them.) I should also note that the curation of one's own collection of things to watch isn't necessarily a young, media-savvy person's thing. My mother and my uncle, both in their 60s and legendarily non-techy - the sorts of people I imagine being dismissed by media researchers as "passive" - easily mastered MySky as soon as I showed it to them and now spend a lot of their time deliberately choosing their own programmes from TV listings.

    In other words, I get a bit twitchy and bah-humbug about how now TV is all revolutionary! and amazing! In many cases I think it's plus ca change. The one thing I will concede is the second-screening - I suppose it's taken the place of something like, say, sewing or knitting, although probably way more people do it. (I do it myself.)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Sacha,

    Lou's ex

    sorry, I mean widow

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19719 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    emember the feeling of frustration when you walk into the video store and can’t even decide where to begin looking?

    For me, this is where Netflix has a considerable advantage over Lovefilm. The user browsing interface is far superior, and the 'you watched this, you may also like....' on Netflix is actually very, very good, tuning down to quite specific genres with zero effort: 'you watched ['80's action film X]. You might also like ['80's action film Y]'.

    Odd, because Lovefilm is Amazon, and they're normally pretty good at that.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Myles Thomas, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    Public service TV doesn't have to be high brow. Look at the BBC. It's about providing a balance, something for everyone, a service.

    NZ public service broadcasting as it exists is filling a massive vacuum with limited resources. If there were more resources then PSB could cover a lot more ground.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2011 • 130 posts Report Reply

  • Myles Thomas, in reply to Brent Jackson,

    Research has apparently shown that the older you get the less attention you give advertising. It makes sense. Getting older we are less prone to fads, wanting to fit in or accepting what we are told to think (in general).

    Advertisers want your money but they know their ads are wasted on you.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2011 • 130 posts Report Reply

  • Myles Thomas, in reply to Finlay Macdonald,

    Don't give up on PSTV just because it's been virtually destroyed by successive govts. It is still incredibly powerful enabler for democracy, engagement and culture. And it can be permanently resurrected with a switched on Minister of Broadcasting. Yes books, lectures, online to that too but not as powerfully.

    Your kids might benefit from lack of telly but there are millions watching the shit that is currently screened. Don't they deserve more than crappy copies of foreign formats? Where are the kiwi values in The Block? Instead of humble, egalitarian, stoicism it is consumerist salespeople on a effing journey! And let's not discuss the politics behind emergency service ob-docs.

    Our media affects our reality (not reflects) and if you are happy to stand by and wring your hands while the TV watching millions lose local scripted content to Netflix et al, local values to reality TV and public engagement in national events then that's a pity.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2011 • 130 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Freeview (my digital provider) now has Al Jazeera's twenty four hour newsfeed as one of the options. Great! Now I can stop missing BBC World News quite so much. I just wish they'd get rid of Choice, that ghastly fundie Firstlight channel and one of the shopping channels. Apart from C4 2 and Parliament TV, it's a wasteland otherwise.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 571 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Jason Kemp,

    I was also thinking that the product placement on some shows esp the BlockNZ was so overwhelming that there has to be a backlash.

    When Advertising No Longer Works

    A recent trend I've seen on the mainstream news webs is that of auto-play ad videos. As if standard auto-play videos weren't as bad as they got.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5430 posts Report Reply

  • Ken Sparks,

    The main attraction for me with regard to a public service TV broadcaster is the way it respects its audience. Commercial TV channels are predominantly designed to trick an audience into watching ads when what that audience is actually trying to do is watch a programme. Sure there are some people that enjoy watching ads or don't mind the constant interruption but I suspect most would prefer an uninterrupted viewing experience. Of course we can time-shift and fast forward through the ads but it's still an interruption. Public service TV is able to have a totally different relationship with its audience where the programme content is paramount. Even if that programme is time-shifted it'll still be a more rewarding viewing experience. A public service channel can still carry advertising but ideally only screen it between programmes - if the ads are engaging enough then the viewers will watch.
    I really miss TVNZ7 and hope that if we elect a Labour led government next year they will manage to once again establish a public service channel that offers an alternative free-to-air TV option and a platform for the kind of local content that is increasingly being shunned by the commercial channels.

    Cox’s Creek • Since Apr 2011 • 60 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Kemp,

    Lets go one step further - what would it take to get PAS as a Freeview channel? It seems like this is a media savvy community that creates content as well as thinking about what and how we all consume - who knows how to set up a freeview channel?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 368 posts Report Reply

  • martinb,

    The other aspect is the aspect of the nation. What things do we do that most people will join together in, have as a shared experience of life in NZ?

    I didn’t realise that the Listener had a monopoly on tv listings untl the 80s- that seems bizarre, but that, for example, used to be one part of the shared culture.

    The idea of the blog, netflix, etc etc world is it is one that doesn’t have to engage with much it doesn’t like or isn’t presented confronted with it, and there is less of the old glue of national culture.

    I guess there is probably someone who has written better on this overseas, but this is the kind of thing we used to be able to read in the Listener! What is the result for the idea of NZ of these split cultures with fewer and fewer uniting points that everyone a) has access to and b) wants to watch or read?

    Auckland • Since Jul 2010 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Jason Kemp,

    Lets go one step further – what would it take to get PAS as a Freeview channel? It seems like this is a media savvy community that creates content as well as thinking about what and how we all consume – who knows how to set up a freeview channel?

    If only it were that accessible.

    There are currently no Freeview terrestrial slots available in Auckland. that's the main reason Stratos had to rebrand and go to Sky. The last slot to go was the one taken by Choice TV.

    The government has buggered up spectrum allocation to the point where it can't meet its commitments with respect to community and non-commercial licences and is beholden to Sky, which will leave everyone else waiting until December to see what it does with the legacy UFF spectrum it's been allowed to keep on a "use it or lose it" basis.

    And once you're past that, Kordia's transmission fees would run to about a million dollars a year. The Freeview license fee is $100,000 annually for large broadcasters, but comes down to $2500 for small broadcasters serving a single region.

    Oddly, the easiest way onto a Freeview EPG is likely to be via the internet. Quickflix will launch as a "channel" on Freeview early next year

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

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