In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Henry Jenkins---the MIT Media Lab guru, new media visionary and expert on convergence culture--poses the question "In a Social Networking World, What is the Future of TV." This is a really insightful essay and I encourage you to read the full text.
Dr. Jenkins starts his essay with a Jay Leno antidote from the LA Times. No, not the 11:35 pm former 'King of Late Night' from traditional (i.e. "old media) television. This quip comes from the 10:00 pm, slightly shell shocked and network proclaimed 'the future of TV' host of 'The Jay Leno Show.'
Meeting with reporters prior to his new show launch, Leno admits that "television is dying" and the business is changing so rapidly, with audiences scattering in all directions, "I don't know what TV is anymore."
Shift to Multiplatform Media Consumption
It's no secret that younger viewers are more inclined to watch their favorite television shows online rather than sit in front of the television. Remember, Millennials are a hyper-connected generation and to them merely sitting in front of the TV is a really passive, boring and disconnected media experience.
Younger viewers are able to simultaneously watch TV, surf the web, exchange IM's with friends, participate in multiplayer online games related to their program (a la MTV & 'The Hills' Backchannel), do homework, download music they hear on a show, check text messages, Tweet and/or update their Facebook status.
The whole concept of "prime time" TV is a foreign concept--DVR and on-demand streaming video on the web allow them to watch TV on their own schedule and preferred media distribution platform--TV, computer or mobile phone.
These trends are no longer confined to younger generations. Increasingly, viewers of all ages are adopting multiplatform media consumption habits first seen by younger audience and incorporating them into their own lives.
Convergence of Social Networking & Television
As I blogged a few weeks ago, research from Park Associates found that over one-fourth of broadband users ages 18-24 are interested in having social media features integrated on their TV. The report, Social Media & User-Generated Content, found that multiplayer gaming, in-program chat, and “most watched” lists were among the most desired social extensions sought out by Gen Y respondents.
According to Jenkins, there is an even bigger shift taking place:
Some call this a "post-network" era and are suggesting that it constitutes a change as dramatic as the shift from broadcasting to cable. Yet, actually, television may be in the hands of a different kind of network -- Facebook or Twitter rather than ABC or Fox.
Networks like MTV and CNN are keenly aware of these trends and have responded by creating interactive multi-platform opportunities for viewers to connect via social networking communities like Facebook or Twitter where they can simultaneously watch (and snark) together.
For example, CBS has created Social Rooms a virtual environment where viewers can "join family, friends and fellow fans and watch your favorite episodes of your favorite shows together." The hit CBS comedy, How I Met Your Mother weaves real blogs into their storyline, further blurring the lines between TV and the web.
But increasingly, as Henry Jenkins (and Jay Leno) point out, we aren't really sure what constitutes TV anymore. Is television the device where content is displayed? Or is TV the content, regardless of what device we use to view it?