Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

October 3, 2013

MARK BENNETT: Remotely confused by television

Programming more complicated than in the 1990s.

(Continued)

Please excuse my confusion, likely rooted in my clean-plate-club, we-only-had-three-channels upbringing.

Adding to the plethora of possibilities are, of course, mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Not surprisingly, the number of mobile subscribers viewing video materials on those devices has increased by 36.5 percent since last year, according to Marketing Charts, a media industry Web publication. The same analysis assures us that “traditional TV” — Does that now mean one of those life-sized 72-inch monsters advertised on NFL Sundays? — is not dead. Americans ages 2 and up (Really, they surveyed 2-year-olds?) watched 31-plus hours of TV a week.

Still, laptops, tablets and smartphones tug hard at our attention span. Another firm studying media consumption, eMarketer, estimated the average adult will spend five hours a day online this year (not just watching shows or video), compared to 4 hours and 31 minutes of time spent in front of the boob-tube. Overall, people will spend 12 hours and five minutes a day with all media (digital, TV, print, radio), up 16 minutes from last year. Some of that increase involves “media multi-tasking” — the art of sitting before a television set, while Web-surfing on a laptop with one hand and texting on a cellphone with the other.

Kids these days (a demographic encompassing all people other than ourselves) also view shows from “traditional TV” through OTT websites, such as Hulu. If you’re scratching your head, wondering what the previous sentence meant, your pain is felt. OTT stands for over-the-top, an online subscription service for watching television shows, movies, videos, “webisodes,” trailers of upcoming films, movie bloopers.

Anyone who can remember being excited when Channel 38 debuted in 1973 — three local channels! — must feel like a caveman in 2013.

Again, this isn’t a complaint. Exploring can be fun. In a single, one-week visit with our oldest son on the East Coast, we became full-fledged, dialogue-quoting fans of “30 Rock” and “Community” — a pair of NBC shows my wife, daughter and I had never seen. Until, that is, we watched multiple seasons of both shows on Netflix, late at night after full days of sight-seeing. With “Community,” I found that Chevy Chase remains hysterical; his gray hair and role as the show’s wacky senior citizen reminded me that a few years have passed since his Gerald Ford imitations on “SNL,” “Fletch,” and the “Vacation” movies.

Obviously, change has two sides. Maybe we’re better off seeing the shifting sea of show-viewing options as liberating, rather than confusing. Perhaps the old 2, 10, 38 channel choices actually amounted to repression disguised as cutting-edge 1970s technology.

After all, as Kramer once said on “Seinfeld,” “The Dewey Decimal System — what a scam that was.”

Mark Bennett is a columnist for the Tribune-Star of Terre Haute. Contact him at mark.bennett@tribstar.com.

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