Thursday, February 12, 2015

State of TV

Five TV stories.

“Please, not in front of the TV”: Some voice-control TVs, we found out, are relaying everything said in the room to a unknown data center; that’s where the spoken words get converted to TV commands, which are then relayed back to the TV. Some of the same TVs recognize the video tapes you are playing, and are capable of showing advertising selected to go with the corresponding movies. We found this out when TVs in two countries accidentally started to play commercials over people’s prerecorded programs. The total U.S. TV audience is declining a little faster than last year. A small fraction of former TV viewers are switching to movie subscription services such as Netflix. Jon Stewart will be leaving The Daily Show later this year. A “serious” newscaster is suspended after worries that several stories from the past were fabricated.

The decline of TV is not exactly snowballing, but it has reached the point where every time a TV show ends, you have to wonder how many TV viewers cancel their subscriptions the next day or the next week. In the case of Jon Stewart’s exit, the number will probably be a few thousand. There are millions of viewers whose regular TV habit has been reduced to a single show. Every TV show ends eventually, and when it does, a fraction of those screens will go dark. Part of the reason, I think, is that the TV industry has gotten too slick at the way it controls viewers’ behavior. If they have pushed the envelope too far, it’s no surprise if viewers feel that they’re not getting what they want anymore and are walking away.