Television as we know it is dying. It’s like Doctor Who’s inevitable regeneration but without all the drama, special effects, and completely different visual persona. Television is doing what it has always done. Change.
I remember when my father brought home the family’s first television. It was a black and white Traveler brand and the price was about the same as smaller 4K HDR flat screen television from Walmart or Best Buy. Television was in its infancy back then. We watched two different channels– CBS and NBC and a fuzzy ABC station farther away in St. Louis.
A decade or two later our community was blessed with cable TV. That meant higher quality, some channels and content in color, and a few dozen channels. After that it was more of the same. More channels. More cable TV-only network channels. And all color (except for reruns). In the decades since, and with one notable exception, not much has changed except quality and quantity. More channels from which to choose and higher video quality.
Other than quality and quantity, the major change in the past few decades has been the shift from viewing live television programming to viewing it on a DVR and now streaming video to mobile devices.
Apple TV and the new Apple TV 4K sit in the intersection of yesteryear and rapidly changing habits. Apple TV is the big screen alternative in a world full of mobile devices which have become de facto television of the 21st century. Network channels have become applications which stream content. Mobile devices stream video content through Apple TV to the television. YouTube TV, Sling TV and other streaming video services are the 21st century version of 20th century TV, with many streaming channels, a monthly subscription price, notably higher video quality, all of it on demand and available from almost any device.
Google’s YouTube TV has a feature I like. The virtual DVR which lets you record live video programming to be streamed at a later time or date. Apple TV has a few notable features, too, including purchases, rentals, streaming channels, and a single location to view almost anything, whether internet-based or from mobile devices.
Television as we have known it since the 1950s has undergone massive changes. What we knew then is dead and gone. What we’ve known in recent years is undergoing more change, all of it steps toward what we expect the future to be– on demand everything. Every channel, every movie, every TV show, anything video– and all available all the time and anywhere.
We’re not there yet, but it’s coming.