Where is Your TV Going?

Television has changed so dramatically over the past century. Right now we are on the very cusp of a whole new era. The end of television, TV, the silver screen, the telly as we know it!

We shouldn’t be surprised though, televisions have been becoming more and more like personal computers for the last 15 to 20 years.

It started when we began adding harddrives directly to our TV entertainment systems to record shows we used to watch live via satellite or cable.

Remember TiVo? That was the first digital television recorder I heard about. (This is probably because it literally became it’s own verb.) People would “tivo” everything from cartoons to news.

Today, we have on-demand TV and DVR at our house.

Think about that term “on-demand”. On-demand television was developed to make sure that there is always something on your TV that you want to watch. They are adding new movies, TV shows, and how-to videos to the mix all the time.

We (finally) moved past the analog television infrastructure. Apparently it was too expensive to keep up maintenance, yet to valuable still to just “turn off”. It took years because while the vast majority of people have digital televisions, there was a select few (probably millions) who still had the same TV set they’d purchased 30 years ago. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore huh? :)

Today we are buying blue-ray players and video gaming systems that download apps and connect to the internet just like our computers to log in to Facebook or watch the latest YouTube video that everyone has been talking about.

Where is television headed?

The personal computer and television are becoming one in the same. For many people, they already are.

The internet gives advertisers a huge advantage to customize and target you for certain types of ads. What if they could instantly merge TV and the internet? They would probably know more about you than your some of your best friends right? They’d know what shows you like… (even those you’d never admit to liking), your occupation, where you went/go to college… and high school, your favorite ice cream flavor. They’d know everything they need to know about you, right down to the last Saturday night you were out and drank one too many, because the next Sunday morning you were googling “home remedies for hangovers”. Think about it.

As a web developer, I’ll share a little inside information (for those who are new to this whole idea) on how tracking your media usage is possible. Many many websites now use small tracking “programs” called cookies that get downloaded into your browser cache upon visiting certain website. These cookies track the pages and searches you open while on their site. Search engines like Google can then use those cookies to customize the advertisements you see in the sidebar of their website or affiliates’ websites. They make it easier for you to fill out forms, like auto-saving your name, email address, usernames, etc. so you don’t have to type it in every time.

At first, this probably seems kind of scary right? I am not even trying to start an Apocalypse or anything, However, everyone should at least know (even if it’s the most basic version) what is happening in our world.

So, how do they get away this sort of invasion of privacy? The answer for the consumer is so that you will not be bombarded with irrelevant ads and information that you are not interested in seeing.

Why do they care about such a holistic collection of information about who each one of us is? The answer for the marketing companies is so they can build tremendously effective target market strategies and basically put you in a category to advertise products that you are very likely to buy because thousands of other people in your same “category” bought it and liked it. It’s called data mining and most of the time it’s done for target marketing. He who collects the most information about you and uses it to really understand your needs and wants wins your business.

Example:

Sam has been visiting lots of sites and blogs about football season schedules and his favorite NFL team stats. The ticket sellers (we’ll call Company X) are going to pay the companies lots of money to make sure that Sam and every other person like Sam who is visiting these sites know that Company X has the “best” prices for their next game, the best prices for Super Bowl XLV, and the best seats available to the public…etc.

They do get those seats sold, and probably not at the best price or best seats. You know?

What will this technology look like in the next ten to twenty years?

I predict that in the next ten to twenty years, television will continually consume our lives as it becomes interconnected with personal computing. There will be a continuous battle with obesity and the diseases that come with it as well. I fear that it will be a bigger part of how many people spend their lives, instead of having families and friends they’ll have their upgraded cable systems. We see the TV/PC integration already with the popularity of watching sitcoms online like at Hulu.com and new web shows sprouting up on YouTube. The TV dinners and the “grab and go” type snacks are becoming a staple food for too many households. We will most likely see even bigger frozen foods and instant meals sections in our grocery stores. Have you noticed lately how our grocery stores are positively full of junk food? I would bet that at more than half of all of the products in the more common grocery stores go to are not considered healthy for you.

So that explains the internet but why must all television go digital?

As these smart target marketing systems evolve they will become even more powerful with even more accurate and instant of measurements for digital stereotyping. You can’t say that about the Nielsen rating system which is archaic and seems to be forever stuck in 1980 something when all the cool people got too busy to keep an accurate diary of what tv shows that they watched. LOL!

No, seriously even we have done one of these a few years ago, but after the first day it all became a lot of creative writing. On the last day it became a quick glance at what we usually did watch which was saved with the date and time of the show right there on DVR to write down for the people who take the info. I’m sure I am not the only one who has done this. I gave them the information they wanted, but it was exact and it wasn’t instant, where website analytics and social media networks are.

Real Life Example:

The Nielsen ratings still say that Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien’s popularity are still in the same ballpark with the 18-49 crowd. However, I can get on twitter right now and see that Jay’s 120,000 followers on twitter don’t even remotely compare to Conan’s 2,240,000 followers on twitter! I’d say Conan definitely has the farthest reach. :)

Having all of your web surfing, Facebook “Likes”, and channel surfing info all in one place will enable the system to provide you with program suggestions, product suggestions, and on demand entertainment that will not only follow the same methodology, but it will become more customized and more exact every time you get online.

Example:

Imagine, minding your own business, looking up the latest dirt on Hollywood’s finest and their current disasters and suddenly the system tells you in an ever so pleasing voice:

“I noticed you have really been into (Insert: Topic/Person/Activity Here) lately, so you’ll love this movie rental: (Insert: Movie Title Here). It is available right now for only $5.95!

You buy the movie. You love it and get a prompt at the end: “Got a minute to answer a 3 question survey to let  (Insert: Us/Director’s Name/ Actor’s name/ Actress’s Name/Etc. Here) know how much you loved it!”

How did the system really know that you would love the movie? The answer is because you’d spent 40% of your online time pouring over the same content that is discussed, joked about, or criticized in the movie.

Doesn’t the constant availability of custom entertainment that you have a voice (even if it is ever so small) in what you want to see and which entertainment or information you are into sound like a great idea?!

So, will this have a seriously negative effect on us and future generations? As much as I want to believe that mankind will see and change these troubling trends which are sentencing many to a life of real solitude, I know that mankind is gluttonous and usually chooses the road to instant gratification. As television and personal computing technologies merge, it will become cheap enough for all to “enjoy” for as long as they want. The higher price we might pay is that of our health and our motivation to live a fulfilled life. I mean, why would you want to live healthy, make friends, or even fall in love when we can live vicariously through someone else on a silver screen?