The following article will be a bit stream of consciousness as that is how I feel in relation to television. It is a stationary item in an un-stationary world. To me, that already seems like a recipe for failure and it does indeed seem that millennials are opting to turn off the TV more than turn themselves onto it. Yet, it is still here and it will still be here for however long people choose to turn on the box. So let's go down the rabbit hole.
For the past five years, television has not been something of importance for me. I've had one, but I would just not really watch it. Sure, once in a while I would flip it on to watch some Adult Swim with my roommate and as we moved out of the college dorms and into life after school, Jeopardy after we got out of work. The TV was always there, but never necessary. It was something to fill an hour before I fell asleep at best.
These days I am working in a foreign country, where I seldom watch TV, save a CSI or NCIS re-run (HUGE in Korea) here and there. But, television shows that interest me are almost exclusively watched over the Internet, at my convenience and when the friends I watch the shows with can watch it. When we have a free night for Mad Men, Mad Men needs to be there.
Not since Lost went off the air have I waited for a certain day of the week to watch new episodes of a show. Those were wonderful days, hosting Lost nights and waiting for Thursday to come around. But then high school ends and the Lost nights became harder to keep going and then you leave college and Lost has been finished for a year and soon your not turning on your TV at all. This is a reality of millennials, TV can't be everywhere we are because we 1) don't know where we want to go 2) have no place to go or 3) don't have the time to commit to the box. These days, I'm just not in a place where I can invest myself into the television in that way and I'm sure I am not alone.
This “tossing of television to the wayside as something that is nice when free time is found, but otherwise an unimportant part of life” got me thinking about people my age in general. Television does not seem to play the role it did in our childhood or the role it will play later in life. Millennials just don't seem to need or want a TV.
Television is something that has been heavily built up over the years as a central entity of the household. Since television came into people's homes in the late 1930s, it has stayed there and more and more has been added to this one stationary box. Color TV in the 1950s, satellite technology in the 1960s, home recording in the 1970s, high definition in the late 1980s, and then add on top of that more choices in programming than someone could ever watch. Too much.
With everything that can be added to the television and the ability to watch anything imaginable at our fingertips, the television has done everything it can to keep people in. This is what is marking television as something more obsolete than relevant to millennials. Millennials are not a generation that has categorized itself as staying in. We want out, anywhere, just out in it. Especially if we have been unemployed and living at home with our parents, the television is the last thing you want to see.
A search online shows some conflicting reports about millennials and their television habits. Without a doubt, television is not dead to the millennial generation. For millennials over the age of 18, 66% are reported to watch programs on a traditional TV, while 70% reported to stream programs on the internet. With more millennials in periods of transition, less are taking the time to invest in the overindulgent world of television. It is just too much in one small box that you can't take anywhere. The fact that more young people in the critical age group of 18-34 are watching programs off the tube shows that television is in a definite period of transition.
It is no surprise to take a look at some of the Nielsen Top 10 reports to see that the top network and cable programs are geared towards either older audiences or younger viewers. I couldn't tell you exactly who is watching Big Brother 14 on Thursday and Sunday to warrant it to appear in the top ten twice. Certainly millennials are not taking the time to watch that show, are we? What I'm getting at is not a diss of 60 Minutes in the third spot or America's Got Talent in second for prime-time network success. I'm just pointing out that millennials on the whole are not around during prime time and older audiences largely support TV.
Television has historically been made for the household and a large part of the millennial generation does not own houses anytime soon. The way we get our programming is more sporadic than crafting viewing around time slots. Millennials seem to gravitate towards good programs and the convenience to watch them whenever we want. Based on the most talked about programs among my friends, it seems that shows of quality are high on the list. Millennials are not looking for a lot of a little, we would take a few good shows over a lot of bad ones and we want to be able to watch them when we can.
Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Dexter are the three shows I have been following lately and I think they are fantastic. But, I am not caught up with the newest episode of Mad Men or Dexter and that is fine, I just need the ability to watch them at my convenience and have them available. This is where television has been working to find our generation and the internet is where we will be getting our programs for the time being. To attract young viewers, this is where television networks need to be. They need to have their shows available for everyone, no matter where they might be.
If television cannot reach viewers through online platforms, than they risk losing them altogether. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are uploaded to Comedy Central's website daily and I love it. But, if they were to stop making their shows available online, I would fall out of watching it and the show would fall into the realm of out of sight, out of mind.
Round-aboutly I have arrived at the reason I brought up this topic: the Emmy awards this Sunday. We are undoubtedly in a great time period for “television” programs. There is certainly well deserved buzz for comedies (Modern Family) and dramas (Breaking Bad, Mad Men) alike and with a host like Jimmy Kimmel, what's not to love? It is one of the few times I am actually kind of curious to see who wins what. But, the matter of television remains in a period of transition and like most people my age, I will not be learning the results of the Emmy's live, I will be hearing about it online when I have some time to kill and I'm fine with that.
Television needs to be present where millennials want it and need it and networks need to support and take care of the shows that are doing so well. Television will never disappear, but it just may not see us for a while.
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