It’s arguable that traditional television is dying but TV viewing definitely is undergoing a dramatic change. Back in the day, most people watched fuzzy TV programs on black and white televisions and were limited to three or four channels. Along came color televisions and cable TV outlets and viewership increased. Cable TV expanded and became a hundred channels, most of which were made-for-cable networks. Viewership increased. Now we can view hundreds of channels in digital high definition and time shift anything thanks to the ubiquity of DVRs (digital video recorders).
So, why has television viewing declined?
The decline is among traditional television watchers, not a decline in viewing video programs. That, thanks to the YouTube generation, has increased viewership. It’s just not an increase in cable TV network viewing or traditional over-the-air TV viewing. That is in decline and while it may never die, it has lost prominence.
Why? Let’s blame Apple.
As much as we might think Apple’s real revolution in the 21st century is the iPhone, the reality has another layer. Apps. Whatever it is, there’s an app for that, now more than 1.5-million in the App Store with tens of billions downloaded and installed on billions of smartphones and tablets.
It may be true that most smartphone and tablet owners try many apps but only use a few, however, the few they use often have video as a major component. Today we have a whole generation of television (video) viewers who don’t watch traditional televisions or view traditional TV fare. They get their news, information, and entertainment (and not always in that order) from the high resolution and always connected screen in their pocket.
TV as we know it from yesteryear is dying. Well, changing dramatically enough that even Apple’s executives can see the handwriting on the wall and realize that an industry in upheaval already has a savior. Apps. Apple just needs to make sure it gets a cut of the revenue stream wherever it might be found on Apple devices.
I’m something of a viewing traditionalist, a current events junkie, live on the edge of modern technology, yet my viewing habits have also changed in recent years and involve far less of standard TV fare than in years past. The DVR gets heavy, use, yes, but so does the iPhone and iPad as viewing consumption devices for streaming services, podcasts, and a much larger number of news and information sources than was afforded just half a generation ago.
Setting blame for such dramatic changes in viewing is easy. Apple did it. But blame might be the wrong perspective; the wrong word. Is Apple responsible for television’s fall from the pinnacle and the sea change in viewing habits? The company ushered in a mobile usage pattern than goes far beyond merely having an iPhone in your pocket. Every smartphone of substance these days resembles the iPhone. Apple pushed the App Store upon users. App developers created software, content makers use software and high speed networks to feed us whatever we’re willing to watch.
If you don’t like all the changes that have taken place, blame Apple. If you consider those changes to be beneficial to a free and open society, kudos to Apple.