Is Television Dead?

Remember those days when you had to anxiously hurry home, sit on your couch and wait for your favorite TV show to start? Well, those days are probably over. For good.

With more and more viewers streaming content online, TV networks find themselves in a position where they have to revamp their presence. A Deloitte study published earlier this year showed 53 percent of viewers prefer streaming TV, while 45 percent of viewers still choose to watch TV programming live.

This trend also applies to student media outlets like NYU-TV, an administrative department within the NYU Division of Libraries that offers two 24-hour channels for students on NYU Cable. NYU-TV content specialist Nora Lambert said they have worked on increasing their web and social media presence to adapt to this new media environment.

“We have to sort of be where the viewers are,” Lambert said. “A major focus for us is to make sure that we get more and more stuff online so that it’s really simple for people to watch it and really engage with it.”

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Tisch senior and NYU-TV assistant editor Jens Victor said the industry is shifting toward more video on demand and distributing content directly from the creators to consumers.

“There’s no question that TV and the way it’s being consumed is changing,” Victor said. “Right now, I believe the only thing that’s keeping the traditional cable broadcast system still relevant is the network’s coverage of live events, most of which are already available online.”

Vivian Feke, general manager of TV2, a student-run independent media organization at Kent State University, said they have noticed that many of their viewers access their content online. 

“With more news going digital and online to places such as Facebook and Twitter, the impact is increasingly positive in a sense where content is linked together to bring viewers to live streams more often, or to watch more of the videos on a site,” Feke said.

Lambert added that a main reason for the turn to the Internet is the freedom it offers people with accessing content at any time of the day.

“People are not locked into sort of one way of consuming media, they can do it on their own terms and on their own time, and that’s definitely a challenge but it’s also pretty exciting,” Lambert said.

In an effort to adjust to the online-only trend, NYU-TV has worked to offer students HBOGO, an online streaming service NYU students can access in the residence halls. Lambert said because students can access general entertainment through the streaming service, NYU-TV can now focus on providing more NYU-centered content, including coverage of panels and university events.

“We can really focus on picking items that really accompany the scenes that we try to address each month to enrich the students’ experience of the city and of the university,” Lambert said.

Steinhardt visiting assistant professor Jeremy Blatter said while the easy access to the Internet can be beneficial for the audience, it should also be assessed carefully for credibility issues.

“Certainly the accessibility of all kinds of content is incredibly exciting, and I think could be a great boom culturally,” Blatter said. “There’s almost no content that anyone can’t get their hands on. At the same time, one of the disadvantages of that is that the quality of that content is also incredibly diverse.”

An additional challenge for TV networks is how to make streaming services a profitable business for them. On top of that, Tisch junior and NYU-TV student editor Katie Sadler said one of the reasons why consumers prefer streaming services is the lack of advertisements.

“Media companies are going to have to figure out how to make money through these services,” Sadler said. “Most online streaming services make their money through subscription fees or licensing, but I’m sure that many people working for those companies are still wondering if they can make enough money that way.”

While many people think this change is something new for the United States, Steinhardt visiting assistant professor Shawn VanCour said TV has always been more diverse than people tend to think. VanCour explained that in the 1950s there were many delivery vehicles for people to choose from, including living room sets and larger projection screens in bars, theater television with live fights shown on giant screens in specially equipped movie theaters as well as early efforts at paid TV through the Phonevision system, which was used for watching movies at home.

“While the present moment indeed represents an important shift in our television landscape, it also offers an opportunity to question what we think we know about ‘traditional’ forms of television, which were often much more diverse than we commonly recognize,” VanCour said.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 8 print edition. Email Marita Vlachou at [email protected]

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