The television isn’t just an electronic appliance. It is an escape, a late-night companion, a gateway that offers a glimpse into another place and time, either real or manufactured. It is a device that has come to represent the modern man and has undeniably changed the course of history over the past century.
Yet, despite the roll it has played in shaping communities and society, viewing habits have become more solitary in recent years. Nevertheless, the device that was once the primary method in which we consumed news and entertainment remains just as important today and, in the face of extinction, is evolving to meet the changing demands of those who watch it.
A New Member of the Family
In the mid-20th century, just as World War II came to an end, the television became a part of the American household. In 1946, approximately 6,000 black and white TV sets were in use. The number rose to 12 million in just five years and by 1955, half of all U.S. homes had one.
During an era of single-income households, television was the centerpiece of the living room and the glue that brought the family—and the neighborhood—together. It wasn’t uncommon for neighbors to converge in the homes that boasted one of these coveted new inventions to watch American Bandstand or see what trouble Lucy and Ethel were up to.
With wholesome programs, television brought family and friends together, creating endless opportunities for the creation of shared experiences. Memorable musical performances, touching stories and provocative news coverage would leave emotional marks on viewers and would create memories that many would never forget. Television would also come to be the primary medium for influencing public opinion, and would affect historical events such as the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.
As the popularity of TV increased and spread throughout the world, the effects it had on people were tenfold. Not only did it bring villages and communities together, it created a unity among entire nations. The coverage of sports events, for example, allowed viewers to develop and sustain their cultural identity and sense of connectedness with their compatriots. There’s no better example of this than international sporting events such as the Olympics. These events have the ability, even if only for a few weeks, to turn complete strangers in a bar into long lost brothers.
A Digital Shift
Yet, things began to change in the late 1990s when it became possible to watch video and television broadcasts on the internet. The advent of laptops and later smartphones gave viewers, particularly millennials, the unique opportunity to watch TV anytime, anywhere. Other TV trends, such as a shift from satellite and cable to digital streaming and convenient on-demand services, which allow a viewer to “binge watch” a number of shows alone in a single sitting, became the new norm.
Despite these recent trends, viewers are beginning to want more from their TV watching experience, especially now that a number of today’s biggest shows are being filmed in 4K for large, cinema-like screens that offer viewing experiences incomparable to what smartphones can create. Additionally, nano-crystal technology, like that used in Samsung’s SUHD TVs, offers better colors, depth and detail for a truly cinematic display, while the new trend of curved screens, which create an immersive experience, proves just how much viewers are missing out on when they watch their favorite programs on portable devices.
While some viewers are sticking to their handheld electronic devices to watch their favorite programs, other television-less TV fanatics are beginning to flock to public venues for community screening parties to catch up on their favorite shows — but not just for the bigger screens and improved technology. That influential shared experience — be it laughs or tears or even fear — that originally brought neighborhoods together is allowing the television to once again thrive as a source of entertainment.
The New Definition of Watching Television
Families, too, are heading back into the living room, watching an average of four hours of TV per day, though the device is no longer simply a means of live feed entertainment. They are using television programs as a means of communication and a springboard for discussions about topics that might otherwise be difficult to bring up. Additionally, smart TVs powered by systems like Tizen give these families the chance to do more together, such as play games or surf the web via customized interactive screens.
Likewise, televisions have been reincarnated not only as a source of entertainment, but as a control hub of the Internet of Things, too. Through this technology, viewers can enjoy the convenience of shopping and paying bills right from the comfort of their couch with T-Commerce payment systems. Additionally, smart devices and appliances are easily controlled with the click of button on the TV screen. Smart TVs and their connectivity capabilities are continuously breaking the norms and enabling users to take advantage of a far more advanced and accelerated TV experience.
While the televisions of today are bigger, better and more sophisticated, allowing viewers to engage with, consume and tailor to their personal preferences even more diverse media and content than in the past, the true prowess of TV lies in its ability to connect people. It is certain that despite the current advancements in technology, there’s nothing more powerful than a shared laugh or cry with those that you love, and the television is the perfect way to create such an experience.