Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Multi-tasking on the boob tube

I don't listen to a lot of long-form podcasts, Ffundercats being (in the past) a notable exception. I just don't have the attention span for hour-long podcasts, no matter how good they are.

But this evening I made an exception to listen to a podcast that I had never heard before - the Braindead TechCast. Specifically, I listened to Episode 123.

At one point in the podcast, Steven Hodson got cranky about the emergence of television sets that include apps. Hodson stated, in his own touchy-feely sort of way, that apps on television sets are not his favorite thing. (His actual statement included the word "hemorrhoids.") If I may paraphrase Hodson, his basic point was that when he watches TV, he uses it as an escape from the insanity of the world around us, and the last thing that he wants to do while watching TV is to check on tweets, see if he has received new e-mails, or find out what the weather's like outside.

It's possible, however, that Hodson's view may become a minority view. Why? Because many of us don't watch TV on TV any more.

I have previously mentioned that our family has a Sony Dash. (I've also mentioned Sony's online customer service, which is apparently better than the customer service of the company that I'll talk about tomorrow in this blog.) Now the Sony Dash allows you to stream items from your Netflix account, which effectively means that you can watch TV without using a TV. Now the Dash has apps; I don't know enough about the Dash to know how easy it is to consult an app while streaming Netflix video, but at the bare minimum your precious apps are just a few clicks away.

Now many people use more powerful devices to watch TV without a TV - basically, your standard computers. If I had the attention span, I could be multi-tasking on my netbook right now, streaming a TV show while checking my tweets or writing this post. And more and more people are "watching TV" this way; although the total numbers are probably underwhelming, presumably more and more people will do this, especially as the cable/satellite providers and suppliers shoot themselves in the foot.

Now I'll grant that the vast majority of people use a TV to watch TV, and the vast majority of people don't even think about checking Twitter while watching TV. However, for more and more people, "TV" will be just one feed of many that is coming into their media consumption device (iPad, computer, TV, whatever). This could potentially have some ramifications regarding the types of shows that are produced, since now TV shows have to compete not only with other TV shows, but with @officialelyse (the whiteboard job resignation hoaxer actress).
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