For the past 25-plus years, I have been attending the TV Critics Association meetings. The latest meeting is going on this week in Southern California.
When I started attending these gatherings of TV critics, the networks ruled. Cable was growing. But whether it was a network or cable, people watched television on a square box in their home.
It’s become clear that is an antiquated way of watching programs. These days, people get programs from a growing number of sources. If you watched the Golden Globes, it was obvious the networks have been left in the electronic dust by an expanding world of online and cable options.
Instead of being a TV critic, a better term would be ED critic. There are so many electronic devices used to watch programming — from computers to phones — that it’s time to upgrade the job title to fit the brave new viewing world.
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To expedite the switch to electronic devices, a movement called TV Everywhere has been started by many cable, satellite and other TV service providers, along with broadcast and cable networks. This will be done by offering apps so you can watch shows on any electronic device.
The idea is for consumers to be able to watch shows without paying extra for a service such as Amazon Instant Video or Netflix.
Alex Wellen, CNN chief product officer, expects big changes in TV viewing habits in two years.
“Things are changing so quickly that TV is really more of a state of mind, right? I feel like watching TV,” Wellen says. “So whether it’s networks or shows or segments, atomizing TV and getting your channel or your channels seems like a likely route.”
Consumers already are embracing services like Netflix that allows viewers to watch on their own schedule.
The way programs are being delivered is also changing. Netflix, once thought of as merely a way to rent movies, has become a force in original programming. It’s been joined by other online services such as Crackle and Hulu.
Networks are at the mercy of ratings. But so many people are watching TV shows they have recorded or watch using On Demand that the ratings don’t give a clear picture of viewership.
Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos sees traditional broadcast TV as a thing of the past.
CBS President Nina Tassler agrees.
“Our ratings are higher on DVR and VOD, and more viewers are watching our content online. In addition, we’ve launched a digital subscription app in October, CBS All Access, where viewers can watch the network and CBS shows on demand both online and on mobile devices,” Tassler says. “In today’s digital, multi-platform era where new distribution services are emerging and competing against each other every day, the value of every single viewer has never been greater.
“We’re no longer a business that’s simply about the overnights.”
It’s time I start going by Electronic Devices for Viewing Programming When and Where You Want to See It critic. It’s a completely different TV world from when I started.