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What's Next for TV

Screen shot from Hulu.com.

And this just in: American television viewing is at an all-time high.

The latest Nielsen report shows household TV viewing at a record eight hours and eighteen minutes a day. The average American household now has more televisions than people. And many more ways to watch, beyond the television: on the PC, the laptop, the iPod, the cell phone — on Hulu.

Maybe it’s the recession … that we can’t afford to go out. Maybe it’s that screens are everywhere. Maybe television viewing’s triumph is traditional TV’s last hurrah.

This hour, On Point: The triumph of screens, and where TV goes now.

You can join the conversation. Are you watching more? And in more places? More ways? Are your viewing patterns and relationship with TV, with video, changing? How? Tell us.


Frank Rose, contributing editor at Wired magazine and author of the blog Deep Media.  He’s working on a book, “Welcome to the Hyperdrome,” about how story-telling is evolving in the Internet age.

James Poniewozik, TV critic for Time magazine. He writes the Tuned In column, about pop culture and society, as well as the Tuned In blog.

Douglas Rushkoff, author of ten best-selling books on new media and popular culture, including “Cyberia,” “Media Virus,” “Playing the Future,” and “Coercion,” winner of the 2002 Marshall McLuhan Award.

More links:

Here’s the Los Angeles Times on Nielsen’s new “three screens” report: “Television, Internet and Mobile Usage in the U.S.” Read the full report here (PDF).

See Frank Rose’s Wired article “Free, Legal and Online: Why Hulu Is the New Way to Watch TV.” The New York Times’s Virginia Heffernan also wrote about Hulu in a recent column.

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  • Donna Canniff

    My family got rid of cable last year and we’ve never been happier! The shows which were on prior to our canceling cable were mind-rotting pieces of junk! We’re more productive, spend more time together and talk about issues which matter rather than what happened on Survivor. I’m swearing off TV for good.

    Essex Junction, VT

  • Pam

    When we were in the market for a minivan, the salesman asked us whether we wanted the model with the built-in dvd-players for the passengers. I replied that we wanted the bookcase model and that if the dvd-studded model were the cheapest, I’d rip out the screens. Good grief! Now, people can’t even hold conversations–or read, or, just, look out the window and take in the changing scenery–for the lengths of car rides! We are a nation of vidiots.

  • http://myslu.stlawu.edu/~aodo/ Aileen O’Donoghue

    My TV is often a “talking lamp” that’s on while I’m doing many other things and I wonder if this is the case with many people.

  • Gary

    My old analog TV died a few months ago. I haven’t bought a new TV and have enjoyed the TV-free months. I’m finding it very difficult to come up with a reason to buy a new TV with all the crap on the screen that goes under the category of “entertainment”. If I “have to” see something, I’ll watch it online.

  • Clinton, Burlington VT

    I think you guys are over analyzing this spike in TV viewing. More unemployed people trying to take their minds off of their unemployment are watching more TV is watched. They also may be searching news programs for some glimmer of hope. Seems like a pretty simple correlation to me.

    I know I don’t watch TV anymore – we don’t have cable and my TV is for watching movies from netflix. The occasional show/broadcast I do want to watch I’ll watch through Hulu, or wait till the DVD of the season comes out.

  • Joe Poulin

    I connected my Computer to my 42″ screen 2 months ago. Since then, we have completely stopped renting videos from the video store and rarely use pay per view. Now we watch what we want when we want. No longer paying roughly $80/month to Blockbuster.
    I used to read when nothing was on trhe tube. I find I watch more because I can select what I want to watch whenever it is convienient for me. I will probably get rid of the dish later this year.

  • Alex

    I still watch HBO, but that’s about it.

  • Sharleen

    I was really disturbed when I heard how much time the average family spends watching TV. Think about about what a difference we could make in society if we spent that time out in our communities, or even playing with our kids. I heard a sad–and perhaps, now, typical story–the other day from a mom whose son wanted to go outside and make a snowman. He asked his friends to join him, but they all preferred to stay inside and watch TV. I myself have cancelled cable because there just wasn’t enough on there to be worthy of my time.

  • Sue Leroux

    In 1968, a fan magazine reported that DEAN MARTIN had a TV in every room of his house. I couldn’t think of anything more luxurious. But now! Anyone who wants to can have the same thing.

    I think cable/satellite is here to stay. I can’t stand watching things on a screen smaller than my computer.

  • Karl

    I am a fan of Boxee on my Apple TV, which brought Hulu to my HDTV. Hulu’s content partners forced Hulu to remove it from Boxee, most likely because of the threat Boxee posed to traditional revenue sources from cable and satellite. Clearly there is a great fear that new internet distribution will cannibalize existing business models.

    Is this short sighted off these content providers?

  • Pam

    It’s not the visuality that makes TV and video games worth so much less than books (I have watched a fair number of amazing and classic movies): it’s that some of the greatest minds in the history of the world have put their thoughts and their creativities into books; it is hubris to imagine that the typical TV/video creators products will pass the test of time through the centuries or, even, through the quarter-centuries.

  • Mark S.

    Personally, I find channels like The National Geographic Channel, the Biography Channel, BBC America and others well worth the price of admission to cable. I ignore the crap, which is easy to do and winnows away most of the rest of what’s on.

    The celebrated science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon was once challenged during a speakers’ panel by an audience member who shouted that “90 percent of science fiction is crap!” The author smiled and said, “Sir, you are absolutely correct. 90 percent of science fiction IS crap. But then, 90 percent of everything is crap.” It became known as Sturgeon’s Law, which is eminently applicable to television. You just need to be selective in what what you take in.

    Instead of puke like “The Bachelor,” you could watch a documentary on The History Channel or Nat Geo. Or you can toss the baby out with the bathwater and assert your intellectual superiority for banishing the demon box (or flatscreen) from your domain.

  • Sara Orel

    My local cable company doesn’t offer Bravo in any of its packages. I happen to love their reality shows (project runway, top chef). But Bravo, even though an NBC company, doesn’t let more than 2 episodes a month of any show get uploaded to Hulu. So I look at other options — trying to catch things on YouTube before they are taken down for copyright violations, for example. And then there is Project Runway Canada, which is very difficult to get south of the border. I would happily deal with commercials on my computer if I could watch these shows. I do use Hulu quite a bit, and watch through network websites as well. But Bravo is annoying to me.

  • John Taylor

    Interesting fact:

    One of the first websites to host their own TV shows without advertisements was Adult Swim. Unfortunately, they soon followed the trend and began showing advertisements online like everyone else.

  • Diane

    We got rid of our TV 13 years ago when we had our first child– the content was awful and the commercials even worse. I have raised our kids in a time warp with a TV hooked to a VCR/DVD. They have watched Mr. Ed, Andy Griffith, Little House, Brady Bunch, Lost in Space, The Flintstones, etc., all sans commercials. This has created kids who do not beg and whine for all the latest toys and that in itself has been worth any downside to not having the box. When we go to a hotel or relative’s house, TV is a big treat but my kids have little tolerance for commercials.

    Things are changing and it’s great. I select shows for my kids for their iPods– this is a “pay-as-you-go” model (rather than advertising) that I have been waiting for and we love it.

  • Ezparz

    I think we just want to connect emotionally with other people (real people are far more difficult to connect with emotionally) and T.V. helps us do it.

  • Pam

    An obvious correlation is between TV/video watching and the recent ongoing obesity epidemic. “Think about about what a difference we could make in society if we spent that time out in our communities, or even playing with our kids.” Indeed!

  • greta

    Just an observation, but I have lost count of the number of times the filler-phrase “you know” has been used (by nearly everyone concerned) thus far during this broadcast. Perhaps it is a product of spending too much time in front of the small screen.

  • Hollie

    Only one of my friends has a regular TV. The rest of us (about 10 people) only have laptops and netflix accounts. We watch some shows on our own, but we also get together once a week to make some popcorn and watch a movie or stream something from the Internet. We are all 30-somethings that live in Vermont. Are we just nutty Vermonters, or do we represent the next new wave of TV-viewers?

  • Nancy Szeker

    Are people actively watching tv or just not turning it off? My teen and older children use the television as background noise. Just like their computers, their tvs are always on, even when they leave the room or even their apartments. Yes the tv is on 8 hours, but noone is watching it.

  • JP

    My city’s cable companies require payment for cable television in order to receive broadband internet.

    So long as this is the case, the transition away from television will likely be slowed considerably.

  • Mike

    Until recently I’ve been getting along quite well without cable. I watch a few select shows on Hulu or broadcast TV. What finally pushed me to cable is sports programming. I’m from Boston, and summer wouldn’t be the same without Red Sox baseball. I looked in to getting the MLB.com video streaming service, but they only let you watch out of market games. It seems cable companies are working pretty hard to keep this market cornered.

  • Joe Poulin

    Well thats crazy. Any computer with a DVI or HDMI output can be connected to any large screen HD TV. Just takes a cable and an adapter. I run a 50 foot cable to my CPU and watch on 42″ sceen.

  • Nancy Read

    How do you spell: Houlu? Please give web address.

  • Lorenzo Perez

    Count up the number of “you-knows” your guests use in each sentence they speak. It’s enough to motivate me to reduce my television watching hours! I had to stop listening — I just couldn’t, y-know, take it any longer.

    Love NPR & BUR though!


  • Brian

    OK, how would NBC ABC FOX CBS produce the shows HULU streams without the revenue that is generated by the cable/satellite companies, and advertising?

  • Mark Rochefort

    Hulu is available on the vt now if you have a modern game concole with PlayOn. I had stopped watching tv all together and basically had my hdtv for video games and movies till this came out. Now I watch more TV then I have in a decade.

  • Cindy B

    Tom; great show! Comcast is driving me away from TV. When they moved MSNBC’s Keith Olberman to their digital lineup, rather than caving and signing up (for more $$) for digital cable, I found Keith on Itunes. Now I download the show to my Ipod — it’s available a few minutes after the ‘live’ show ends — and watch it WITHOUT COMMERCIALS the same night. By the way, when I can’t catch your show live, I listen later on my Ipod so I don’t miss a thing! (On Point is my #1 podcast, followed by Keith O.) Cindy from Topsfield, MA

  • Dan

    We shouldn’t worry about the television shows going away because they lose the current revenue stream. The networks may go away, but they don’t really produce the shows anymore.

    The shows are produced and then sold to the network. The network makes money on those shows with the money they get from the cable channels and ad dollars. The networks operate in a very similar fashion to the record companies. It really is the same model.

    Television producers are making money by introducing product placement or having corporations sponsoring shows.

    Why are we paying top dollar for an out dated distribution system that doesn’t work for the consumer?

  • Ken Klein

    Internet providers are beginning to cap bandwidth. If this occurs, it may throw a big curve to those cutting the cord. It will be like the small cell phone plans. You’ll be so afraid of going over your xGB download limit, that you won’t download movies.

  • Andy Springer

    I am just wondering if the television technology will advance to allow internet to stream through a cable box? There is still something to sitting down in front of a 42″ TV and having the same freedom you have watching online television. Currently there is streaming of Netflix movies through a Roku box, or watching purchased shows through an Apple TV, but will a program like Boxee revolutionize internet on TV?

  • http://jboringman@yahoo.com john borneman

    We’ve had no TV for the past 15 years. We get our news from NPR (KCLU) and newspaper. We belong to NETFLIX and check-out Nat Geo specials from our library.

    Where else can you get the the kind of full new coverage
    the comes over NPR?
    John Borneman

  • JP

    ROKU rocks!

    I have it hooked up to my HD projector and the picture is great, even on non-HD content.

    Best $99 I ever spent – and all the content is included with my regular $9.99/month Blu-Ray membership!

  • JP

    ROKU rocks!

    I have it hooked up to my HD projector and the picture is great, even on non-HD content.

    Best $99 I ever spent – and all the content is included with my regular $9.99/month Blu-Ray Netflix membership!

  • Ann, Oxnard, California

    My household (myself and 2 – 20+ year olds) took the television out of our home 3 years ago. This was a unanimous decision, not just “Mom’s”. I miss only three shows. The Rose Parade. The Super Bowl. The Oscars. I seem to survive just fine without them. At first I was freaked out, but quickly found NPR (my daily base of information.) When my co-workers talk about TV shows they watch, I just stand and nod my head, amazed at the content and quantity of their viewing. (These are the same people who won’t talk to their children about drugs or sex, but have no problem letting them watch it on TV.)

    We are all currently in college and spend most of home our time on homework. In our free time we read, work on craft projects or go for a walk. My daughter and I have decided to starting our own family book club (first book, The Catcher in the Rye.) I personally don’t feel we’re missing anything.

    I had a young co-worker ask me “what do you do if you don’t watch TV?” I told him we talk to one another and exchange the events of our day. What a novel concept, interacting as a family. When all else fails we laugh at the comic antics of our cat and dog (they should have their own reality show.)

    Life is very full of wonderful moments without the invasion of the television.

  • Robin in Wisconsin

    I just canceled my cable today, subscribed to a bunch of great magazines and turned on Wisconsin Public Radio to listen to On Point! I feel smarter and more engaged already. Missing American Idol is probably a good thing.

  • Emma

    Our TV sits in our basement and our daughter occasionally watches children’s shows (Sesame Street, Diego, Dora, Little Einsteins) OnDemand and PBS, but otherwise it sits silent. We have expanded cable only because the package price for high speed internet was cheaper with cable than without. I do watch two ABC shows, but only online and we sometimes rent movies on iTunes. In a world where screens are getting larger and larger, I am getting more and more used to watching a smaller screen. I’m not anti-TV, but am pro controlling screen time – TV or computer.

  • Tiger

    Another great On Point day…almost 5 to 1 listeners are more interested in entertainment than our infrastructure…is this the end of the Obamagasm?

  • giselle

    anyone know of other hulu-like sites – variety/programs….. watchtvsitcome.com has lots of free decently crafted tv— hbo/showtime etc — big love, weeds still-in-theater movies …. (mega video) -but nt hard to fig out how to surpass time limits…. ?other leads out there?

  • http://www.driftlessllc.com Tino Kaltsas

    Really great episode. With Hulu, Netflix, etc, the value proposition of overpriced cable really gets worse by the day. But lets hope Hulu doesn’t cave too much to the Cable giants. I’m more than happy to be subjected to a reasonable amount of ads and/or pay a resonable amount of money. But make it too hard or too difficult and I’ll go right back to other less legitimate sources. It’s easy, free, and NO ADS, so I hope that they get it and don’t start moving backwards.

  • Peter Pjecha Jr.

    Regarding What’s Next for T.V., and the current enchantment with the latest mediums of viewing; I believe ancient crumbling Rome coined the phrase and created the phenomenon referred to as bread and circus, i.e., food and entertainment, of which T.V. is the narcotizing later, and modern counterpart . . . come to think of it, food has actually come to be entertainment on T.V. . . “fascinating”! Also, as I’m presently learning Spanish, I’ve discovered that the Spanish word for entertainment happens to be “diversion”, and begs the question–what essential and needful things in this infinitely complex modern world that so profoundly changes in the twitch of an eye are we being diverting from . . . and can we afford to be caught with our pants down watching T.V. when it all happens?

  • Reid Miller

    A friend thinks light-emitting screens showing colorful moving pictures and playing varied sounds attract and hold attention more than things we see because light bounces off of them. That is, television grabs and holds attention better than words on paper or paintings on canvas. He tells of a grandmother who challenged him not to let television “do his thinking for him.” These considerations sum up for me what television offers. I have stiff hips and extra inches to show for how often I sit on my duff before the screen. I prefer the immediacy, information and stimulation of talking with people in the same moment and place. I tell stories for a living. The “connecting” possible with television is valuable, but I believe less so than face-to-face interaction. As to distraction, I feel humans need both engagement and distraction. The beauty of storytelling is the ever-present, in-the-moment feedback loop inherent in the endeavor. It is with this feedback loop that we best use our minds and decide what to think. We can question the presenter. Videophone technology gives a limited hint of the audio-visual part of that without the visceral sensings in sharing the same space. I think television will be around forever, and never replace direct human interaction.

  • Lando

    This was a great program – coincided with my chucking the cable provider to the curb. It was so easy to replace – plug in your xBox 360, then your netflix into that, and you’ve go more content then you know what to do with!

  • Ciesse Q.

    I second the comment above re: the first two guests’ INCESSANT resorts, mid-sentence, to “you know” — a shameful display of verbal sloppiness, and ample evidence that, at least in terms of language use, the medium is creating “a nation of v-idiots.”

  • david

    I’m researching to find a decent digital tv antenna and get rid of my satellite tv. The programs are dull and the cost keeps going up. I grew up with 3 channels so I won’t miss it.

Aug 20, 2014
A man holds his hands up in the street after a standoff with police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. (AP)

A deep read on Ferguson, Missouri and what we’re seeing about race, class, hope and fear in America.

Aug 20, 2014
In this Oct. 21, 2013 file photo, a monarch butterfly lands on a confetti lantana plant in San Antonio. A half-century ago Monarch butterflies, tired, hungry and bursting to lay eggs, found plenty of nourishment flying across Texas. Native white-flowering balls of antelope milkweed covered grasslands, growing alongside nectar-filled wildflowers. But now, these orange-and-black winged butterflies find mostly buildings, manicured lawns and toxic, pesticide-filled plants. (AP)

This year’s monarch butterfly migration is the smallest ever recorded. We’ll ask why. It’s a big story. Plus: how climate change is creating new hybridized species.

Aug 19, 2014
Lara Russo, left, Cally Guasti, center, and Reese Werkhoven sit on a couch in their apartment in New Paltz, N.Y. on Thursday, May 15, 2014.  While their roommate story of $40,800 found in a couch made the news, other, weirder stories of unusual roommates are far more common. (AP)

From college dorms and summer camps to RVs and retirement hotels, what it’s like to share a room. True stories of roommates.

Aug 19, 2014
Police wait to advance after tear gas was used to disperse a crowd Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer last Saturday in Ferguson, Mo. (AP)

“War zones” in America. Local police departments with military grade equipment – how much is too much, and what it would take to de-militarize America’s police force.

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