It’s the Couch

I used to say that TV as we know it is not going to exist much longer than 10 or 15 years, which I still don’t want to withdraw — simply because it’s a long time span in which a lot will happen. What I want to focus on instead is why it’s not happening earlier. It’s because of the couch. Yes, you heard me alright, the couch — and what goes with it.

The couch defines the place you live in as your home. Bed, bathroom, kitchen — these are things you find anywhere you’re staying. The couch makes all the difference. I just realized the other day that the last place I was living in didn’t feel like home — because I never bought a couch. Other associations with the couch are family, togetherness, all deeply rooted within us, and it’s a perfect symbol for comfort, relaxation, and hedonism.

And if you’re not living in a place where you have a marvelous vista from your living-room, I guess opposite to your couch there’s a TV set. The window to the world. Not only one world, but hundreds of worlds. All of them right in front of you in your zone of maximum comfort, and if you don’t like one, -zap!- there’s another. This is a very different experience from browsing YouTube, even if it’s on your TV set, because the former is not only a programme scheme designed by professionals (which you would have to create yourself on the Web), it also conveys a lot less responsibility in terms of what you are watching, because it’s pure consumption (or not). When you’re the programme director, you have a lot more responsibility for how happy you are with what’s on the screen, because first you have to decide what should be running, and only then you’re back in your consumer role to decide whether you like it or not. That’s a lot more stress to deal with, and we, being lazy humans, don’t favour that.

That said, the audience dynamics on the Web are entirely different from those towards TV. A successful programme like the German version of “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares” would in my opinion falter on the Web because I think you just can’t build an equally loyal fan base, aside from the fact that financing the show to be broadcast Web-only is close to impossible. But what Christian Rach, the German Gordon Ramsay, could do, is to have a video series of cooking tips on a website, with sponsored links to markets where you could pre-order and pick up your ingredients, or, to keep it low-tech, just see if they’re in stock. And a bazillion of other ways to monetize his popularity, aside from the obvious books  (of which he has published three). But the TV format as it is would not translate to the Web.

As long as TV is more about the overall experience than what’s on the screen (the same transition cinema has gone through several years ago), it’s not going away anytime soon. Ever bigger screens, 3D display any other gadgetry support this even further, so the battle (if there is one) will be decided elsewhere.

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