Saturday, February 6, 2010

Enhanced Television

This was by no means a major aspect of the book, but I thought the mention the authors made of enhanced television in chapter 5 of Windows and Mirrors to be interesting. Not because I found the concept to be novel by any means (as we've obviously been experiencing it for quite some time), but because it reminded me of a class discussion I had way back in the beginning of my undergraduate career on the topic. I was in COM107 at Syracuse back in 2003 (which was also when the book was published), and my professor had mentioned this "enhanced television" that allowed television and internet to go hand in hand. The way he described it almost made it seem like it would change the way we watch television, even though it seemed like a logical idea. Offering an outlet to obtain further information just seemed to make sense - after all the typical fan site had been doing the same thing for many years before the networks even caught onto it. I still remember back in the days of dialup when I'd use my 2400 baud modem to find out about video games and professional wrestling and whatnot. So offering character bios, downloads, games, etc may not seem like a new idea by any means. But it definitely makes sense for the networks who actually own the original content to jump on this bandwagon - if you already have the website, why risk losing the visit to some site made by some random person in say, Iowa?

I may be entirely wrong in this assumption, but I really don't think enhanced television has really changed the viewing experience for anybody. I have never watched a single webisode for The Office or Scrubs, and only visit network sites if I want to catch an episode I missed of a show. I don't know too many people who have truly bought into this idea, and feel like it may have been adopted out of necessity. I think this is especially true for the news outlets, as they realized sooner rather than later that people were no longer obtaining their news from traditional outlets and were instead turning to the internet. The CNNs of the world were basically forced to adapt to this or risk losing their share of the news market.

However I will admit that the news market is one place that enhanced television has managed to stick around and work out pretty well. Even with our 24 hour news cycle that sensationalizes even the most mundane news stories, only so much can be covered on the air. Giving viewers a place to learn more about a specific story or topic is definitely helpful to both the network and the viewer. The network keeps the attention of the viewer, albeit in a new way, and the viewer is able to obtain the additional information desired. And this is also an excellent example of the refashioning mentioned by the authors, as news has been moved from the newspapers and the television onto the internet, but still maintaining the majority of its original characteristics. Whether or not this refashioning was intentional or just done as a way to adapt to a changing media market remains open for debate (at least to me), but is still interesting to look at.


  1. Interesting point Mike. Having worked at CNN for a little while i was constantly seeing their push to more and more online media. Even in the short time i was there, i saw a greater increase in the amount of news going onto their websites. Come to think of it, more and more of the information that was going out for boradcast on tv was items that we had webrolled off the internet (literally pulled the content off the internet and saved it in onto servers. I think this major shift in how we choose to get our news and general media has a direct correlation to the hectic nature of society as a whole and the amount of gadgets that people can now use to take their media with them on the run. Society no longer wants to be tied to their television or newspaper but demands to be able to get their information in transit. Being a consumers market, there is just no choice but for more and more media to go digital as online content.

  2. Webisodes and character bios may not have changed things much, but how about the fact that you can watch an episode online if you missed it when it aired? Or that you can choose to watch the program online in the first place? And that you can watch shows online that are no longer on the air? That strikes me as a dramatic difference.

  3. In terms of television, I agree with the statement that the networks were forced to go onto the internet with their content. As for watching episodes on the internet, I agree with Professor Strate to a point. As far as I know, a large number of television viewers are now watching TV via the internet as opposed to their TVs. But at the same time that's why websites like Hulu, which are legal ways to watch TV online, are gaining speed and popularity. There were illegal websites up for years with so many TV shows, movies, and cartoons that haven't been on air for years- but they are quickly shutting down. I remember myself using these websites for a couple of years back in 2006 and 2007 before they were being shut down.

    The demand however for the content is still there. So Hulu picks up networks willing to advertise with them for the free content to the viewers, and companies like NetFlix gain consumers too. So I think you are right too Mike, the networks did realize the demand for it.