Zero TVers

The television industry is worried about a growing new category called “Zero TVers.”  Not to be confused with people who don’t watch TV at all, these viewers will watch programming.  But not what’s broadcast or cabled onto a TV set.  They watch on their computers or, instead of on huge HDTV screens, on their cellphones.  Or they might have an HDTV monitor, but are content to watch old programming they rent via Netflix.  Does this describe you?By Ryan Nakashima of the Associated Press:

Some people have had it with TV. They’ve had enough of the 100-plus-channel universe. They don’t like timing their lives around network show schedules. They’re tired of $100-plus monthly bills.

A growing number of them have stopped paying for cable and satellite TV service and don’t even use an antenna to get free signals over the air. These people are watching shows and movies on the Internet, sometimes via cellphone connections.

Last month, Nielsen started labeling people in this group “Zero TV” households, because they fall outside the traditional definition of a TV home. There are 5 million of these residences in the United States, up from 2 million in 2007.

Winning back the Zero TV crowd will be one of the many issues that broadcasters discuss at their national meeting, called the NAB Show, taking place this week in Las Vegas.

Although show creators and networks make money from this group’s viewing habits through deals with online video providers and from advertising on their own Web sites and apps, broadcasters get paid only when they relay such programming in traditional ways. Unless broadcasters can adapt to modern platforms, their revenue from Zero TV viewers will be zero. . .

The Zero TV segment is increasingly important, because the number of people signing up for traditional TV service has slowed to a standstill in the United States.

Last year, the cable, satellite and telecommunications providers added just 46,000 video customers collectively, according to research firm SNL Kagan. That’s tiny when compared with the 974,000 new households created last year. Although it’s still 100.4 million homes, or 84.7 percent of all households, it’s down from the peak of 87.3 percent in early 2010.

Nielsen’s study suggests that this new group may have left traditional TV for good. Although three-quarters actually have a physical TV set, only 18 percent are interested in hooking it up through a traditional pay TV subscription. .

The TV industry has a host of buzzwords to describe these nontraditionalist viewers. There are “cord-cutters,” who stop paying for TV completely, and make do with online video and sometimes an antenna. There are “cord-shavers,” who reduce the number of channels they subscribe to, or the number of rooms pay TV is in, to save money.

Then there are the “cord-nevers,” young people who move out on their own and never set up a land-line phone connection or a TV subscription. They usually make do with a broadband Internet connection, a computer, a cellphone and possibly a TV set that is not hooked up the traditional way.

via Broadcasters worry about ‘Zero TV’ homes – The Washington Post.

Does this make video-watching more like reading, a matter of choosing something off the shelf according to your interests and tastes, and less like a mass medium?  Is this development all to the good, or does it also represent yet another loss of communal experience that can help bind a culture together?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Michael G

    My wife and I are proud “cord-nevers”, although that has to be the clunkiest phrase I’ve heard for it. We watch MLB.TV, Netflix, and sometimes Hulu, and we rent DVDs from the local library and borrow from friends. In our area we’d have to pay about $2500 for a 2-year cable contract. Given the plethora of other options, it seems foolish to spend that much money for the few channels we’d watch like Turner Classic Movies and ESPN.

  • Pete

    Having many choices is typically a good thing and nowadays we have so many. I’m not a “cord-cutter” – the NCAA basketball championship game last night was great to watch. But anymore I get my news from the internet. I’ve pretty much jettisoned conventional radio, preferring to listen to podcasts or iPod playlists in my car or while exercising . Come to think of it, it does seem like the TV has been relegated to important sporting events (oxymoronic, perhaps) – Stanley Cup hockey, MLB playoffs, etc. – and large breaking news stories – 9-11 and such.

  • http://www.docsdining.blogspot.com Jason

    We are Zero-TVers. We have a 50″ TV, but no cable, no dish, no antenna. My wife received a call from a local cable company several months back who actually yelled at her because we don’t use traditional TV service. He said, “I don’t understand people like you! Don’t you know what you are doing to your children!?!”

    Actually, yes we have considered what we are doing to our children.

  • kempin04

    I am a bit above the age norm of the demographic, but we are “zero tvers.” We do have a uhf antenna, which is just enough to watch NFL football in hd, but the nature of the commercials is driving us away from even that.

  • Pete

    @Jason

    Priceless !!

  • Dan

    My wife and I watch shows on our computer. We’ll use dvds, Netflix, or television networks websites. We want the freedom to watch when it is convenient to us.

  • kempin04

    “. . . does it also represent yet another loss of communal experience that can help bind a culture together?”

    Gosh, I hope so. I really can’t think of a positive way in which the communal experience of broadcast television has contributed to culture. Seriously, I can think of many negatives, but I can’t think of a positive.

    Honestly, it is a tribute to the power accumulated by the broadcast companies that they are still able to hold their own so well, but technology has changed. A new model of advertising will eventually dominate, (Google and Amazon are leading the fight for that future right now), and the demand will shape the product. Behold Netflix. There will still be a market for “feed” type broadcasting, but the cable companies best take care that they do not hold too tightly to a monopoly. Competition drives down prices, and it makes no sense to a consumer, in the context of current technology, to be told that they can’t buy a particular show or channel feed without buying a whole suite of products that they don’t want.

  • Tom Hering

    I’ll turn 59 on Sunday. I got rid of my telephone land line a decade ago, and cable six years ago (when I moved from my old apartment where my next-door landlord shared his cable with me for free). My ten-year-old TV is hooked up to an antenna and a DVD (not BluRay) player. I only watch two of the twelve channels I recieve over the air (PBS and MeTV) and my DVD collection is mostly composed of movies I bought for $3 at Big Lots and $5 at Wal Mart (I’m willing to wait years for titles to show up in the bargain bins). I go to the movie theater once a year (if that), listen to Wisconsin Public Radio, and buy all my books from a secondhand bookshop in my neighborhood (with almost 50,000 titles in stock, and they can find anything I want through a network of secondhand sellers). That’s my entertainment, along with my hobby (plastic models). As for media that provides a sense of community, that’s what Cranach is for. :-D

  • Booklover

    If TV is a “communal experience that can help bind a culture together,” then I am sorry for our culture.

    I am a Zero TV’er, but in the true sense of the word. I don’t watch TV and I’ve never been interested. I’ve ordered *Christ and the Media* by Malcolm Muggeridge to see if it speaks to people like me.

    One thing that drives me nuts is how people will rave about a singer on a particular show, but they wouldn’t step foot in a local concert or musical. Our city is filled with fantastic talent. To me, attending excellent local shows is a true communal experience.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    My own viewing habits have changed dramatically in the past five years or so. We now rarely watch anything “live” on TV and we spend far more time viewing non-network TV programming (which is superior in just about every way to any network TV).

    I have no idea how any programming that depends on paid advertising is going to make it, since on the DVR we blow through all the commercials and never watch them.

    NatGeo, Discover, Animal Planet, Nature, National Geographic Channel, AMC, etc. all provide vastly superior programming to just about anything on ABC, NBC or CBS.

  • Ryan

    I’ve never had cable growing up just an antenna, I had a TV and landline in the lates 90s when I went out on my own… but my wife and I have used Internet and cell phones basically for all the 21st Century. My daughter really has no concept of TV. We watch old TV reruns from 50s, 60s, various cable programs online like Good Eats, and shows from PBS’ golden age of the 80s/90s (Mystery!, Reading Rainbow, Wishbone etc…) and Netflix or Amazon for Documentaries. But even with that our consumption of video is less than in the TV days. I would say screen time is not less as the Internet reading of news, blogs, and other things fills that place TV did. I would say that even in the past I would never pay for TV , and occasionnaly went without disgusted by its content toward the end…. Back then it was the VCR, and later DVD player, and the library collections that kept us entertained.

  • MarkB

    I am part of the older demographic, mid sixties and have not totally cut the cord. However, my wife and I are seriously cutting back on broadcast TV for a lot of reasons including: Too many commercials, the scurrilous content of most prime time shows, the advent of technology like the Android Stick computer we use to access Netflix.
    We still watch things like Dancing with the Stars, Sports (mostly me watching various auto races), News (mostly local and Fox News). But, now we will sit and watch whole seasons of various shows from around the world (English speaking since we aren’t bilingual). Netflix is relatively inexpensive at less than $8 a month and has a lot of different options. Hulu is also available, but for some reason not supported on the Android Stick computers, so we then hook up the computer to the TV screen.

  • Joe

    We are Zero TVers. My wife and I came to the realization that we never watched anything live and that we very rarely loved show so much that we could not wait to see it. So we have Apple TV (no monthly fee) that allows us to access anything in our iTunes accounts, any content on you Apple devices, YoutTube, Vimo, and various shows that networks and others have placed on Apple TV via their own apps. We also can get Netflix (for a small monthly fee) and HuluPlus (for a fee), We can also buy or rent movies directly through Apple TV. The Apple TV also supports NHL Center Ice, NBA League Pass and the MLB equivalent. Each of these leagues also has an app on the Apple TV that allows you to watch game highlights for free.

    As of now we are only paying for Netflix. So we made an initial $100 purchase of the Apple TV receiver and have a $8 or $9 monthly charge. Next year we will probably also pay for NHL Center Ice.

    We also still have an antenna on the roof, that is how we will access the NFL next season.

    Lastly, the vast majority of networks/cable channels put their shows online within a day of the first airtime. You can watch on the computer or connect the TV and the computer and watch it on the big screen. The Mad Men premier is the AMC website already this morning.

    There are two huge benefits: 1. we are saving a ton of money and 2. my kids are naturally gravitating toward older programming that I find more acceptable.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    My family has been pretty much in this category ever since the Cialis commercials came out, and I considered that I wasn’t quite ready to explain the concept of a “four hour ********” to my then toddler age daughters. They love the old Roy Rogers and Andy Griffith shows, as well as older movies.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    You should’ve titled this post, “The death of Broadcast TV (and why it matters).”

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Er…, “The END of Broadcast TV….”

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    I really don’t see this breaking the communal experience that bind culture together. Why? Books didn’t and if your analogy of watching shows according to taste is similar to picking a book off the shelf is accurate you will see something similar to book phenomenons. Enjoyable and reasonably well written material will become rather popular and become that common ground i.e. Tolkien, Rowling, Austin, etc. Plus, I have seen entire communities arising around shows that are “taken off the shelf” for instance the BBC shows in America. We don’t get to see them right away but we eagerly await their arrival in DVD, PBS, or Netflix and we talk with each other via the net. Some people even get together at conventions and meet knew people simply because they like the same set of characters. So to answer your question this will not fracture our culture. It will merely change the mode of communal experience – for better or worse remains to be seen.

    Do keep in mind the networks are worried because their profits are at stake. They stand to lose big if people give up cable contracts that subsidize the crap channels owned by the big companies that only exist to pad profit through cable contract fees. Also writing good shows is hard work.

    We are almost zero-tver’s because I still want to watch my Aggies but even here I watch a lot of the games online via ESPN streaming service.

  • k

    Does this “represent yet another loss of communal experience that can help bind a culture together?”

    I sure hope so. I don’t believe TV has been that great as far as a shared cultural experience. The content is awful–driven by the economics of what sells advertisements. When was the last time you saw a TB show and thought: “Wow! That ennobled my mind and heart in a way that is completely congruent with the christian faith!” ? Usually, it’s poorly masked progressive ethics with a worldview from the Enlightenment. Major TV networks have done successfully what Phillip Pullmann tried to do with the “His Dark Materials” series. What kind of “shared experience” is it to sit slackjawed together, not speaking with one another? What twisted form of socialization doesn’t involve talking? I’m not saying people can’t or won’t or haven’t socialized around this—I’m saying that TV is not a very good center around which to socialize humanely.

    In Homer’s Odyssey, he warned of the enchanting petals flowers of the lotos flower, a bewitching sight that “made men forget how to be men.” Homer was right. Right about human nature, right about how indulging every whim can make us forget how to be human beings as we ought to be. The ancients called this “being ruled by your passions.” Network TV offered this poorly, and now Netflix personalizes it. You can be ruled by whatever passions you want, whenever you want, at any time. On demand. Your demand. You can be the god of whatever little portion of the internet you’re willing to pay for. It’s great to be king.

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    “The content is awful–driven by the economics of what sells advertisements. When was the last time you saw a TB show and thought: “Wow! That ennobled my mind and heart in a way that is completely congruent with the christian faith!” ? Usually, it’s poorly masked progressive ethics with a worldview from the Enlightenment.”

    I frequently have this thought when I listen to Christian Radio or walk into a Christian bookstore – though sometimes I exchange Romanticism with Enlightenment. I’m sorry but I find your rant lacking, k (@18) simply because how is it different from what has gone before? Seriously, how has anything changed? In years past we could go and pick a book from our personalized set of tastes at the library and then we could listen to radio shows that fit our tastes, then tv shows, now internet content. Nothing has changed except the technology. That means nothing, books, tv, or anything would be by your definition very good to center around socially. Or maybe that is your point and then I wonder how that is logically consistent with using Homer to prove your point.

  • Matthew

    My family has no idea what happened last week on “Downton Game of Lost Mad Survivors.” But my kids will beg to watch old Animaniacs episodes on DVD. Were it not for the NFL and O’Reilly (which I also mostly stopped watching in my despair after the election) I think we’d stop getting satellite TV altogether.

  • Howard

    We are cord-cutters, I guess. We have a Roku box, and subscriptions to Netflix and Hulu Plus. My oldest daughter springs for an episode here and there on Amazon. We have the TV antenna for Packer games in the Fall – which means we miss quite a few. That is probably the thing I miss the most, but I don’t miss it as much as the cable TV bill and the commercials!

  • sg
  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist

    Our TV broke during a move several years back. Surprise, surprise, we didn’t miss it. We’ve been TV-free ever since (to be fair, we almost never watched it, and never paid for cable). But, for content providers, they have got to come to terms with the future of media. People want specific shows, at specific times, on specific devices. That is the future of broadcast media.

  • Grace

    We have had cable for a long time. There are many sports events and special programing, such as those from Briton, that can only be viewed if you have cable.

    I know lots of people watch their programs on their computer, however we don’t want to sit in our office watching on a small screen.

    As for phone, we have land lines as well. Some times cell usage has gone done for a number of reasons, in which case you don’t have access to a phone, if you don’t have a land line. My husbands and I need land lines for fax, computers, and phones. We have cable for computer use.

    I don’t know many people who live where we do, who don’t have land lines, and cable for computers, television, etc.

  • Grace

    The sale of large screen televisions is high. I don’t believe the vast majority of people are watching the junky shows they used to produce a decade ago, but they are watching programing that is often times based on history, antiques, education, and those from abroad.

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    Grace, depending on your set up it is pretty easy to view on-line content on a big screen in the comfort of your living room.
    A decent computer running any OS with a dual output video card can use any modern flat screen as a second monitor. Team that up with a good wireless router and you are good to go. There are even wireless VGA connectors now. I am not sure about how well they work, but they are out there. You can even set it up so your computer runs through the receiver on a home theater set up.

    With a good computer you can do the whole ADHD thing and do stuff on the computer while watching TV. Nothing like doing a raid with friends while watching Sherlock. ;)

  • dust

    along with too much tv, a horrible education system, obsession with pop culture, fashion, sports, entertainment of any kind, movies, facebook, etc….it’s no wonder madison avenue and the politicians can fool most of the people, most of the time :(

    good thing we have blogs to save us :)

    cheers!

  • Grace

    Century @26

    YOU WROTE:

    “A decent computer running any OS with a dual output video card can use any modern flat screen as a second monitor. Team that up with a good wireless router and you are good to go. There are even wireless VGA connectors now. I am not sure about how well they work, but they are out there. You can even set it up so your computer runs through the receiver on a home theater set up.”

    What you suggest in your post in illegal. IP addresses are used to identify those who try to get something for nothing, the authorities, do random checks – it’s called – THEFT – there are big fines for those who try it. It’s not a TESTIMONY as a Christian to do such a thing.

    “With a good computer you can do the whole ADHD thing and do stuff on the computer while watching TV. Nothing like doing a raid with friends while watching Sherlock.”

    We don’t live our lives that way -

  • Holly (aka Med Student)

    I use cable (which is included in my rent automatically) to watch sports and a few network shows. Mostly I watch shows on Netflix and more recently on Amazon Instant Video for BBC shows I don’t want to wait several months to watch. A major upside to Netflix is being able to watch full TV series all the way through at once. I wasn’t quite as bad as the people in the Portlandia sketch who watched all of Battlestar Galactica in 4 days flat, but I did finish it in a rather short time considering my workload at the time, and got through Doctor Who and Downton Abbey in even less time. Now, though, I get to spend my time watching Pathoma and reading First Aid for the USMLE Step 1, which is rather less fun…

  • Grace

    Good television is out there – it isn’t the majority, but it’s there. It’s up to the individuals to choose wisely, what they will and will not watch, and teach their children as well. You can’t hide and take what you like, avoiding cable, etc., and then stand on “We don’t watch TV” – you’re watching, you just aren’t paying for it.

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    Grace, I am watching legal content legally. Unless subscribing to Netflix has suddenly become illegal and Hulu a pirate site. Seriously, take a chill pill.

  • tODD

    Yes, but Dr. Luther (@31), you did admit to raiding. So I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that this Dr. Luther is nothing less than a Viking! Or possibly a big video-game-playing nerd. Either way.

    Also, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act totally made it illegal to use TVs as computer monitors. I’m pretty sure of that.

  • Grace

    tODD,

    You’re right!
    I BOLDED “RAID” on Century post for a reason.

  • mikeb

    We joke that we’re nearly Amish; we only get broadcast TV or Netflix. Only reason I would want pay for TV is to get the NFL network and St. Louis Cardinals games. Alas, my lovely bride has convinced me that our time and money is best invested elsewhere: Like railroads. Thomas the Tank engine kind of railroads.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @tODD I confess. I am a Viking. And Lars Walker is my favorite author for that reason.

    @Grace, you bolded raiding because you thought I am a Viking.

  • kempin04

    Come on you boomers, cut the cord! Do it. Cancel the cable. Join the demographic. Enjoy the puzzled confusion of salesmen trying to get you to “bundle” when you say, “but I’m not interested in cable.” Just do it, and be free! This isn’t conversion, so take control and decide for yourself. Stop being a chicken. You know perfectly well that there is nothing you get on cable that you can’t get on line. It’s a security blanket of old thinking. Do it! Change your thinking. Cut the cord. Be a Zero.

    And then, for a real mindflip, but a chromebook. (head exploding gesture)

  • kempin04

    *BUY a chromebook. (Dang!)

  • Booklover

    Now I am hungry for Viking on a Stick.

  • tODD

    Kempin (@36) — and other similarly cord-cutting types — so from whom do you get your Internet, then? You know, the people who set you up with the fat pipe you’re using instead of cable or whatever.

    Here in Portland, we have three options for Internet: DSL from what used to be the phone company, cable from the giant cable monster conglomerate, and over-the-air WiMax from Clear (which has some kind of partnership with Sprint). DSL is absolutely pathetic in my part of town, as the company simply refuses to upgrade its infrastructure, nor has it done so in at least a decade (seriously, you’re going to try to sell me 1.5 Mbps in 2013?) WiMax, which I use, is about the same cost as DSL but at least twice as fast — which isn’t saying much, but at costs about the same. Cable offers the fastest speeds by far, but at costs I’m simply not willing to pay. Of course, you can save if you bundle, but then you’re not cutting the cord, are you?

    The upshot of all this is that I don’t watch TV online, because my Internet is too slow to do it comfortably. And I’m fine with that. I waste enough time online as it is. We used to watch TV sporadically (over-the-air with our government-funded Granny Box, or just on DVD), but then our youngest child moved into the room with the TV in it, and now nobody watches TV. Which, again, is fine.

  • kempin04

    tODD,

    My “cord cutting” is strictly metaphorical. I don’t pay for commercials or broadcast programming, but I definitely have some cords in my house.

    First, I am jealous of your access to WiMax. I am from a small city with very limited 4g options. If I had your location, I would get a hotspot from Virgin Mobile–unlimited WiMax for $35/month, no contract, and nationwide 3g coverage. Also, Virgin mobile has 4g smartphones that get unlimited WiMax for $35/mo, but of course they are only useful in the few places in the country with WiMax. Ok, I’ll quit saying WiMax now.

    In my own case, I have a flamethrower modem from the cable company that spews some obscene amount of bandwidth for $50/month. (You have to do some negotiating to get the price, but it can be done. I started off by suggesting a contract, which they went for. I now continue on a monthly basis.)

    If you live in a metro area, you can probably also get hd over the air with a simple uhf antenna. All things considered, though, you’re probably right to let the tv gather dust in the bedroom. We are unhooking ours for the summer and letting online subscriptions lapse.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @tODD, I think we just have two choices and we are just outside of Chicago – AT&T and Comcast. I am not sure Clear is in our area but it is in other parts of the metro area. We use AT&T with the 6 Mbps plan. Until recently I was pretty happy with it. Of late though we have had some slow connections and disruption of service. I wouldn’t mind switching to cable for internet but the prices are horrible.

  • http://simdan.com SimDan

    “What you suggest in your post in illegal. IP addresses are used to identify those who try to get something for nothing, the authorities, do random checks – it’s called – THEFT – there are big fines for those who try it. It’s not a TESTIMONY as a Christian to do such a thing.”

    You’re confusing illegal pirating of movies and shows with using a computer to watch legally purchased and accessed shows from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and iTunes. No one is going to come after you for watching shows off of these and other legit services. If they did, they would be laughed out of court.

  • http://simdan.com SimDan

    I’m 30 here and dropped cable about 5-6 years ago when I realized that, even then, I could buy all of the shows I watched on Blu-Ray and still save hundreds of dollars. I was trilled when I realized that Amazon had all of every Star Trek (despite its terrible philosophy, it’s still a geeky icon and has some great stories) series available to Prime subscribers. I also was thrilled when the BBC started releasing Doctor Who the day after the broadcast. The BBC is on the ball here, the other broadcasters, not so much.

    Shortly after moving to my current city, I had a visit from a gentleman going door to door to sell cable subscriptions. While I did eventually switch to cable Internet a year ago, I had to explain to the man that any cable TV subscription couldn’t possibly compare to the quality, service and price of a disc or online media service and so would not be taking him up on his offer.

  • Julian

    I wanted to leave this comment yesterday, but the filter on my primary source of internet (work) wouldn’t let me so here I am thumbing my smartphone…

    My wife and I weren’t raised on TV, and now we don’t even have a hookup. We went to a bar to watch the Olympics. Short of my aforementioned phone, we don’t have internet either. How’s that for Zero TVers?

  • Newt

    People are tired of the cable companies raping our wallets and the endless commercials, there isn’t much quality TV on these days anyway, why would I want to pay 150.00 a month for 125 channels of nothing decent to watch!

  • kerner

    I have never paid for cable or satellite tv. art of the reason was te cost. I am famously cheap. The other part of it was that I have 5 kids. I aid to my wife, “Honey, we have 2 tvs and 2 vcrs, and the kids fight like cats and dogs over those. o we really need 100+ more channels for them to fight over? I don’t think so.”

    So, we limped along on network tv and blockbuster for decades. For a long time my son and I checked out videos from the public library, which in Milwaukee has a very large, and free, collection (eg. We saw the Sopranos and a lot of Kurasawa movies that way). Then network tv went HD and my daughter told me about Netflix. I get all the tv I need and more from those two sources.

  • skyorrichegg

    My wife and I are “cord-nevers.” We have smartphones (and no land-line phone), a laptop, and a desktop that, when I built it, I invested in a large screen to use for out entertainment purposes. I just didn’t see a use to having a television as well when we can get a nice monitor that we will continue to use as I upgrade the desktop. We have a very nice internet package living in DC that I just tested at 44 Mbps download and 8 Mbps upload. We use Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and our local library for any shows or movies we’d like to watch. We use Skype, Google Hangouts, and Teamspeak to talk to our family and friends in other countries or when doing a bit of, as Dr. Luther @26 said, “raiding.” I think I probably use Youtube for more of my entertainment than any other source.

    My wife’s family has become similar “cord-nevers” for different reasons. They live in Michigan and were hit pretty hard by the recession; any sort of television subscription was the first thing to go for them. They switched to just Netflix, the library, and pay-as-you-go phones for emergencies. I think the recession might have had more to do with this trend of moving away from broadcast and cable, but changing attitudes towards how entertainment works also play a major part.

    I really hope though that acknowledgement of this trend will lead to the dismissal of Nielsen ratings as the major source of a show’s success. So many good shows have been canceled because their major audience consists of people who transitioned to the internet exclusively.

  • Tom Hering

    Last night, Charlie Rose spoke with NYT media columnist David Carr about all this stuff. It’s a half-hour worth watching.

    http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/12869

    The near future might look like Aereo, which is only available in the metropolitan New York market right now. For $12 a month, you connect through the internet to a remote antenna that’s yours alone. It pulls whatever broadcast signals out of the air that you want it to, stores them, and then you watch whatever you want to, whenever you want to, on any device you want to.

  • Grace

    Newt @ 45

    “People are tired of the cable companies raping our wallets and the endless commercials, there isn’t much quality TV on these days anyway, why would I want to pay 150.00 a month for 125 channels of nothing decent to watch!”

    I don’t know where you live, but we pay 90 dollars a month, with 600 channels – that includes 100 music channels – granted we live in a city, not a rural area.

    We aren’t interested in old programing, meaning things like “Star Trek” or most all weekly series, then and now. What we are interested in is special programing, sports, news, and special news. Current interviews, PBS and history channels, some of which are made in Europe.

  • k

    @ Dr Luther in the 21st Century #19

    I hear what you’re saying. I apologize if my obvious vitriol got in the way of the content of what I was trying to say–I hope noone was offended.

    The technology has changed as time goes on, but human nature has not. Technology is in itself neither good nor evil, but it could make good or evil easier to do. Human beings have always and will always struggle(d) to control their innate selfish urges (their passions, their sinful human nature, etc). Many advances in techonology have made it much easier to give in to our selfish/sinful urges. Some advances in technology have made it harder to give in to our selfish/sinful urges. Determining what use of what technology nurtures virtious behavior and what nurtures vice is… a question of prudence.

    For example, look at how easily the internet can deliver content which submits our minds and better judgment to our innate sexual urges. These were temptations long before the technology existed, yet the new technology certainly enables easier indulgence.

    My argument is that television and on-demand internet content does not enable good social qualities. Television at least gathers individuals together around a screen–but they have no practice interacting with one another, but rather sit and “soak in” programming. Discussion of the content MAY happen, but the medium itself does not encourage post-show discussion. That’s why I can’t understand TV as a “social” event: even if you watch TV with people, you’re not really… socializing.

    Internet content on demand (and social media, to some extent) fosters social “events,” yes, but based on the whims of each individual, rather than the good of the group as a whole. This technology enables isolation. Look at the common example that happens when many folks go out to dinner–half of the people will sit together at the same table… and look at their cellphones. Isolated from the people right in front of you. This technological framework teaches us that our individual whims (“likes”) hold the primary place in the task of relating to others, rather than the good of others and the good health of the community.

    This is the same story that has been played out in human nature through all time. Do we love ourselves more than others? or love our neighbor as ourselves? The disucssion of television/internet content relates to this, because TV/internet shapes the mental framework that we use to look at others around us.

  • Helen K.

    following….

  • CW2

    @ Dr. Veith,
    “…does it also represent yet another loss of communal experience that can help bind a culture together ?”

    No.Evoking imagery of friends and family huddled around a big screen, beguiling ourselves with an endless succession of frivolous,pop culture tripe,created by a group of insular,out-of-touch,and narrow-minded elites from Hollywood and Madison Avenue,doesn’t exactly inspire feelings of actively participating in a “communal experience”.
    It is only by appealing to the deep-seated longing in our society for meaningful connections,the kind which can only be found among kith and kin,hearth and home,that we can truly discover an authentic sense of community.Mass media can never provide this.

  • Tom Hering

    Knowing that family and friends, as well as thousands or millions of strangers, are watching the same thing you’re watching, at the same time you’re watching it, does indeed create a sense of shared experience. The sense of community comes the next day, when you and others talk about what you watched (face to face or on fan sites). Sure, you’re just sharing an entertainment experience, but how is it any less of a communal experience than a tribe gathered around a fire and listening to a storyteller? It’s still people creating the stories, and it’s still people watching and listening to the storytellers, and it’s still people talking to each other about the stories they’ve seen and heard.

  • CW2

    Kempin04 @ 7,
    “…I really can’t think of a positive way in which the communal experience of broadcast television has contributed to culture.Seriously,I can think of many negatives,but I can’t think of a positive”…

    If the television industry,as a whole,were ever to be put on trial,and the consequences of it’s effect on society deliberated upon,I strongly believe the weight of long-accumulated evidence would decisively prove,beyond a reasonable doubt,the troublesome menace it has become for our society.
    From shorter attention spans and dramatically increased levels of obesity,to the pernicious proliferation of degrading and dehumanizing “entertainment” that appeals to the lowest common denominator,the track record that tv watching has left in it’s wake can lead to only one,conclusive verdict: guilty as charged!
    Consider the following indictment, from E.B. White, writing in his “One Man’s Meat” column, in the July 1938 issue of Harper’s magazine:
    “I believe television is going to be the test of the modern world,and that in this new opportunity to see beyond the range of our vision we shall discover either a new and unbearable disturbance of the general peace or a saving radiance in the sky.We shall stand or fall by television – of that I am quite sure”
    By all discernable measures,we have ( mostly,with very few exceptions ) failed the test.
    But the problem goes much deeper than mere content alone;there is also the matter of quantity itself.With so many thousands,or tens of thousands,of television programs created over the past few decades,were we to attempt to view even a small portion of these,we would have no time left to live lives of our own.
    Hollywood itself,with the obvious mockery,if not outright contempt,it has for it’s bedevilled viewers,apparently understands this.
    I will quote from the following LA Times article:
    “TV,our window into other worlds” by Chris Erskine, Home section,2/26/04
    http://articles.latimes.com/2004/feb/26/home/hm-erskine26

    …”All I know is that people on TV never actually watch TV.Most don’t even seem to own TVs.Marshall McLuhan would’ve probably had a better theory,but my take is that producers figure that people worth spending time with seldom watch much television”…

    Adding insult to injury,listen to the following radio ad by the consumer electronics company Roku,a ‘leading’seller of digital media products.Take special note of the contemptuous attitude it has for it’s potential customers. :
    “Roku Keep Streaming America Radio Spot”
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=54N6DxIrN20

    There you have it,ladies and gentlemen.With attitudes such as these,why do we continue putting money in their wretched hands ?

  • k

    @Tom Hering #53

    Sure, we can talk about it the next day. Just like we would sitting in the viking mead-halls listening the the bard sing a tale of valor. This part is uniquely human, and something we’d do no matter the medium for story-delivery. I’m not complaining about shared cultural stories—that is a human good.

    I’m speaking of something else. The TV as the center of family life, the center of our social experience. How easy is it now for families to get home, exhausted, stressed, and plop themselves and their children in front of the TV for a cheap and ephemeral escape from stress?

    I’ve done this. I imagine we all have. It’s easy to do—certainly easier than getting home after a bad day and right away having to start dinner, child-wrangling, housework, etc. So I’m sympathetic, at least, and if critical, critical of something which I have also experienced.

    My argument is that this stunts the growth of several virtues, especially for children. Virtues that we need in order to be good human beings.

    Among other things this treats entertainment and stories as an escape. This does not develop the natural virtue of learning to deal with one another when stressed, which involves discipline. Escaping by sitting on separate couches, or separate rooms (or separate iPads!), circumvents the natural process of people learning to discipline themselves to deal with one another. Children don’t have to behave around their parents, because they know they can push mom or dad juuuuust enough to get a free pass to go watch a DVD for the 500th time. Parents circumvent having to discipline their children because they can let the television keep the kids quiet while they surf the web for their own enjoyment. Here, the newer technology easily enables laziness in parenting, escape from parenting, and underdisciplined kids. This sort of abdication of one’s duties wasn’t possible in older times, before television. If viking Hrothgar’s children were jumping around and indoors too much, and there wasn’t a TV to glue them to, Hrothgar would more or less have to discipline his kids—or go crazy.

    Were WE sitting in the viking mead hall with our families, the kids would have to learn to behave so they COULD hear the stories from the bard. Community comes though learning to deal with each other in appropriate ways. Manners. The ease of escape from one another into the new technology of TV gives us little opportunity to learn or practice manners.

  • CW2

    K @ 18,
    “…The content is awful – driven by the economics of what sells advertisements…”

    Your comment is sad and painfully obvious.But what else should we expect these days? We live,after all, in a so-called “consumer society”,where the prevailing economics of modern life has reduced all of us to the status of being nothing more than mindless consumers.
    Inundated,as we are,with a constant stream of will-o’-the-wisp marketing gimmicks,we apparently exist for no other reason than to slavishly pursue whatever product the media marketeers have brainwashed us into believing we must purchase at all cost.RIGHT NOW!! WITHOUT DELAY!!! BEFORE IT’S GONE!!!! HURRY !!!!!
    Only when our financial chickens come home to roost – in the form of increased debt,a tarnished credit rating,etc. – do we realize,in bitter hindsight,the profound perils of being led astray by the profiteers of the mass- media industrial complex.

  • Tom Hering

    So, we’re starting to recognize that we do have shared, communal experiences centered on the storytelling technologies, whether or not we like the storytellers and the kind of stories they tell, whether or not it results in stronger families, a better society, the development of virtues, etc. Though I’d argue that, yes, manners of some sort are being learned, like sitting reasonably still so everyone in the room can enjoy the disc or broadcast, or theaters starting to ban the use of phones during movies, etc.

  • Katy

    [just answering the question, didn' t read any comments]

    My husband and I have never owned a TV (married 6.5 years), but we definitely watch television. I often think how watching whole series in just a few weeks affects my perception/opinion of the storyline (and perhaps makes me more critical than if I had watched one episode a week like everyone else).

  • CW2

    Tom Hering @ 53
    Mr. Hering,

    My main concern with television,in particular,and mass media,in general,is the view held by many people in our society that the “entertainment” provided by the popular “culture” represents a durable alternative to the far more enduring (and endearing) sense of community that naturally flows from an identity based upon shared ethnicity.The agenda-driven content of mass media tends to have a corrosive effect upon the foundations of such communities,to say the least.
    Now,some television can have a legitimate role to play in our culture;however,as a means of securing for society a primary ,or even secondary,source of one’s identity,the vast majority of these fall very short.While there are a small handful of quality shows that can supplement one’s sense of community,they cannot,in any way,supplant the culture at large.
    One example of what I have in mind is Classic Arts Showcase:
    http://www.classicartsshowcase.org

    Here,you have a rare (non-commercial) example of genuine entertainment that is at once enjoyable and edifying,intriguing and illuminating,shining a radiant light upon the kinds of artistic expression that truly enriches society.
    Obviously,with the sad abundance of so-called “reality shows” and dehumanizing daytime talk shows,the overwhelming majority of what is broadcast over the airwaves does not live up to the kind of high standards exemplified by CAS.
    In any event,whether the programming is as wholesome and complementary as that distributed by CAS,or as destructive as that which is broadcast elsewhere,mass entertainment simply does not possess the same kind of resonance as that of a community that is deeply-rooted in Blood & Soil.

  • Tom Hering

    CW2, I think you expect too much of television. I tend to agree with Postman’s argument that the only thing television CAN do well is entertain (not that it always does this well – far from it). Like you, I don’t find much on television that truly entertains me, and some of it offends me. But given the success of the stuff I don’t like, it’s obvious that the vast majority of viewers don’t share my tastes or yours. Let’s not confuse this fact with the end of civilization.

  • CW2

    Tom Hering @ 60,

    Fair enough,sir.
    By the way,Mr. Hering,I hope you had an enjoyable birthday yesterday.May you enjoy many,many more birthdays for decades to come.


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