The Television Will Be Revolutionized

The Television Will Be Revolutionized

The Television Will Be Revolutionized

The Television Will Be Revolutionized


Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2008

After occupying a central space in American living rooms for the past fifty years, is television, as we've known it, dead? The capabilities and features of that simple box have been so radically redefined that it's now nearly unrecognizable. Today, viewers with digital video recorders such as TiVo may elect to circumvent scheduling constraints and commercials. Owners of iPods and other portable viewing devices are able to download the latest episodes of their favorite shows and watch them whenever and wherever they want. Still others rent television shows on DVD, or download them through legal and illegal sources online. But these changes have not been hastening the demise of the medium. They are revolutionizing it.

The Television Will Be Revolutionized examines television at the turn of the twenty-first century —:what Amanda D. Lotz terms the "post-network" era. Television, both as a technology and a tool for cultural storytelling, remains as important today as ever, but it has changed in fundamental ways as the result of technological innovations, proliferating cable channels targeting ever more specific niche audiences, and evolving forms of advertising such as product placement and branded entertainment. Many of the conventional practices and even the industry's basic business model are proving unworkable in this new context, resulting in a crisis in norms and practices.

Through interviews with those working in the industry, attendance of various industry summits and meetings, surveys of trade publications, and consideration of an extensive array of popular television shows, Lotz takes us behind the screen to explore what is changing, why it's changing, and why these changes matter.


As I was dashing through an airport in November of 2001, the cover of Technology Review displayed on a newsstand rack caught my eye. Its cover announced “The Future of Television,” and the inside pages provided a smart look at coming changes. Even by the end of 2001, which was still long before viewers or television executives truly imagined the reality of downloading television shows to pocket-sized devices or streaming video online, it was apparent that the box that had sat in our homes for half a century was on the verge of significant change. The future that author Mark Fischetti foresaw in the article depicts my current television world fairly accurately, although I am admittedly an early adopter of television gear and gadgetry and there are still some aspects of this world beyond my reach. And right there in his third paragraph is the sentiment that television and consumer electronics executives uttered incessantly in 2006 as the mantra of the television future: “whatever show you want, whenever you want, on whatever screen you want.”

But even though Fischetti presciently anticipated the substantial adjustments in how we view television, where we view it, how we pay for it, and how the industry would remain viable and vital, many other headlines in the intervening years have predicted a far different situation. A 2006 IBM Business Consulting Services Report announced “The End of Television As We Know It,” and an otherwise sharp article proclaimed “The Death of Television”; a Business Week article explained “Why TV Will Never Be the Same,” and the Wall Street Journal opined on “How Old Media Can Survive in a New World.” By 2007, a Wired article better captured the contradictions emerging with the title “The TV Is Dead. Long Live the TV.” Predicting the coming death of television seemed to become a new beat for many of the nation's technology and culture writers in the mid-2000s.

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