Online streaming has become a common way to watch TV, but will services such as Netflix and iTunes be able to compete with more conventional television-watching methods? Netflix has gone international, and Hulu recently started to create its own original programming. As Internet television continues to grow and change, Donna Weimer, professor of communication, gives her thoughts on the effect of online television:
How has online television affected mass media in general?
Online TV is part of a much larger convergence issue right now. All of the traditional media, including TV, are under fire from online usage. Like every other mass media right now, TV in its traditional sense has to adjust to online access. The revolution of the iPad has made it much easier to access just about any form of media that we want to, and this is the beginning of a revolution that TV will have to adapt to. Online TV has already affected the DVD market, and you can see that in sales. Meanwhile, AppleTV, Netflix, Hulu, and even networks are responding to people’s desires to see TV online by making the shows available immediately. I think there is recognition within the field that online TV is going to be the wave of the future.
Will online television replace traditional television?
Often when we experience a revolution we think one technology will replace the other, but the reality is very different. We have cell phones, but many people still have landlines. I think also there will be people who want to own video on DVD. They will want DVDs that are tailored with more information than you can get online. I think for a while at least you’re going to see, as with all technologies, that they overlap each other. We thought that computers were going to cause the paperless revolution, and yet we use more paper than ever. I don’t think we are ready to have one technology completely replace the other.
How do you think online television will change?
I’m reluctant to try to predict the future. When I think of online television and where it could go, it could begin to affect how online television is made. It hasn’t done that yet. We still construct shows as if they are going to be seen on TV in a one-hour slot with 42 minutes of show and 18 minutes of commercials, even though when they’re seen online the number of commercials are reduced. Also, more people are watching on their shows on their phones, on smaller screens. It is very possible that in the future how we construct those shows will change to fit the format.
What are some issues involved in online television?
The key term is convergence. All tradition media are converging to a digital format and a digital platform. And living in the cloud is another important concept. It will become much more salient to keep all of your information, including TV programs, in the cloud. This saves on storage. One of the ethical issues that we don’t think about is the digital divide. Not everybody has access. In the United States, about 78 percent have access to the Internet. In the world as a whole, it’s far lower. This is a unique problem to a digitized culture.
~Laura Bitely ’14, Juniata Online Journalist