The Coming Death Of The Television

I used to think it would take maybe 50 years until we reached the day people would laugh when reminded that human beings of the year 2013 had television sets. Lately, I've been expecting that laughter to come even sooner. Maybe in a decade. Maybe not even that long from now.

Do you see it too? The meteor is coming, and I think my TV is too much of a dinosaur to get out of the way.

I once would have considered the extinction of the television an absurdity. Now, I look at it as an inevitably. My TV sits on an entertainment centre in my living room, usually turned off. I glance at it with pity. It seems to me that the TV set is going to be outlived by the refrigerator, the microwave and the dishwasher.

I haven't stopped watching television programming.

I haven't stopped playing video games at home.

I haven't stopped seeing what's on HBO or CNN or the Daily Show.

I just don't use my TV for much of that.

In my pocket, on my couch and in the bag I take with me on the subway to work, I have screens that I like more than the 42-inch one that sits on that entertainment centre in my living room. The other screens, the ones on my iPhone, iPad, PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS, are all smaller, but they're also all better.

"Better" = more portable, more convenient, more capable of running what I want when I want to see it.

"Better" doesn't = bigger, though that's the only legit advantage my TV still has.

Oh, sure, my TV is also the only device that can display certain video games — and I do love playing lots and lots of video games. But the exclusivity that some content now has to my TV is becoming an aggravation. If I could choose where to play the next major game from any of my favourite game developers, I'd prefer to play it on something other than my TV. My laptop, perhaps. I prefer to watch most TV on things other than my TV too.

In my pocket, on my couch and in the bag I take with me on the subway to work, I have screens that I like more than the 42-inch one that sits on that entertainment centre in my living room.

My experiences are not the world's. But I don't imagine that my circumstances are unique. Nevertheless, here's a short rundown of how I lost my own faith in the relevance of TV.

For most of my life, I watched TV shows on TV sets and played video games on them, too.

If I was worried I was going to miss a show, I would set my VCR. When DVRs came around, I used one of those instead. It was easier. No tapes. Convenient access to a batch of old shows.

In the last year, my DVR started breaking down. It would fail to record shows. Off to the Internet I went to find the shows I missed. I'm no pirate. I don't torrent a thing. Never have. Didn't have to. Most of what I want to watch winds up online.

I like watching pro wrestling. TV used to be a must for that. These days? WWE puts clips of their big, live Monday night shows on YouTube, for free, while the live show is in progress. They now stream their biggest pay-per-view shows to laptops and iPads.

I like watching episodes of the Daily Show. They're online the next day.

When major news used to break, I would flip on the TV to keep an eye on things through CNN or ABC. I saw plenty of TV news coverage of the Boston bombing last week — and yet never turned on my TV once. I watched all of it online. I saw a bunch of clips from CBS and CNN just as they happened, all on my laptop. Boston was the first major news event for which I never turned on my TV. Didn't need to.

I like HBO original series. I just discovered the HBO Go app for my iPad and have been flipping through shows on that. I already watched that now-cancelled Star Wars cartoon on my iPad and download classic WWE matches through iTunes. What do I need a TV for?

I saw plenty of TV news coverage of the Boston bombing last week — and yet never turned on my TV once.

I never watched all that much TV, because, over the last decade, I've mostly used the TV to play games. Not so anymore. I rediscovered PC gaming last year with the purchase of a powerful gaming laptop that I could take to any room of my house or even to work. I played Far Cry 3 on it and will be playing BioShock Infinite on it. In any other year, I'd have played those games on an Xbox 360 or a PS3, controller in my hand, eyes fixed on my TV set. I would have done the same for Dishonored but instead I played that partially in an airport during a long layover last December. I played the new Tomb Raider on my laptop, too, on a bus to and from Boston.

Some of this isn't the TV's fault. It's just a stupid screen. It's not designed to do anything other than play what's plugged into it.

I wasn't even planning to make my TV mostly obsolete. It just seems to be happening.

I had bought my newest iPad to read the thousand or so comics I've since downloaded to it, not to re-watch the last 10 minutes of the last episode of my favourite show, The Wire, as I did last week. I didn't get my iPad to watch episodes of RealSports, the sports magazine show I used to have to hope my DVR would actually record. Now, I've learned, I can summon the show on my iPad with just a few taps. Sorry, TV, but that cable box I have is just too slow. It can't keep up, so it's dragging you down.

I had bought my gaming PC to broaden my horizons and play indie and PC-only games that I was missing, not to have it replace my ageing gaming consoles. Nowadays I wait and hope that games like Grand Theft Auto V, a game only announced for TV-connected consoles, will also come out on launch day for the PC. If it does, I'm there. And it's not because of graphics cards and better performance. Look, I thought I was going to be plugging my laptop into my TV and still play high-end games off of it, even through the PC. I did that two or three times and forgot about it. I'm perfectly happy playing games right off of my laptop screen. I can do that in some nice comfy chairs that are nowhere near my TV.

What's my TV got going for it? Size? That's working out for it about as well was it did for Count Dooku in that bad Episode II Star Wars movie when he went up against Yoda. Sure, my TV is still the biggest screen in my house, but it doesn't look all that bigger from 10 feet away than my iPad does when it's in my hands while I'm lounging on my couch. Even my Nintendo 3DS XL nearly fills my range of vision when I play a game on it. Sucks me right in.

And — get this — if I'm playing a game on my 3DS at home, I can keep playing it when I leave the house. What kind of paleolithic entertainment can't leave the house with you these days? Music? Books? I'd rather watch a show that I can take with me than one tied to a screen that's fixed to one room of my house. That means that, if I am given a choice about how to access a given TV show or video game, I'll do so on the machine(s) that let me take that content with me.

What kind of paleolithic entertainment can't leave the house with you these days?

Nintendo was right about this stuff. I think they saw the demise of the TV coming.

I know it's fashionable to knock the Wii U. It's having a miserable first year, after all, and it may well be a half-step that needed to be a whole-step. I still think Nintendo had the correct fundamental idea, and that idea was that TV was a tyrant and that we all yearned to be free of its yoke. They put a screen in the controller of their latest TV-connected console, after all. And then they sent mixed messages. One was that TVs needed a second screen, one in your hands that could augment the one affixed to the living room entertainment centre. OK. Maybe.

Nintendo's other Wii U message: the games that might sometimes be sent from a console to a TV might as well be played on a screen you can hold in your hands. Yes. Exactly! This is the realm of things-I-didn't-know-I-needed-because-they-seemed-superfluous-but-turn-out-to-be-awesome. The same can be said for the faster-than-an-oven-or-stove microwave and the oh-yeah-not-needing-to-be-inside-to-make-a-phone-call cell phone. I was already watching episodes of TV shows in the palm of my hand when the Wii U came along as a technological proposal that I could perhaps play the next Call of Duty while lying in my bed. This is a winning idea.

I've played three Wii U games until the credits rolled. One of the three was playable on the screen of the controller. I played that one on that screen. Happily.

Some of this is about posture. Ergonomics. I'm not a lazy person, but I've discovered that I mind having to sit in a certain way in a certain room to watch or play something on a TV. If I have to submit to so many strictures to view something, I might as well go to the movie theatre.

But what about the sound? Why did I buy a 5.1 surround sound system for my living room a year ago? I bought it because I thought I wanted to be immersed in a soundscape as I am when I go to the movies. Turns out I'm ok with playing games on my laptop or watching shows on my iPad with headphones on. That's immersion enough.

What about watching something with someone? Ah, there's my TV's last remaining perk.

But what about watching something with someone? Ah, there's my TV's last remaining perk. My wife and I like watching shows together. We ain't doing that on some little iPad. And we sure won't synchronise iPhones to watch the same show on separate screens. We watch House of Cards or Game of Thrones together, and when we want to watch something together, the TV is our only and best option. So that's it. Yay for the TV. How soon until someone invents an iPad that can project an HD image onto a wall? Then what will keep my TV out of a dump?

As someone who loves playing games, I know how important my TV will soon be again. It'll be connected to my PlayStation 4 and to whatever Microsoft will call the next Xbox. I'll have those consoles, just as I'll keep playing my Wii U. Yet I think I'll look on their connection to my TV as an inconvenience. And I'll look at plans for the PS4 to support remote play onto the portable PS Vita as a welcome boon, because I'm done with being chained to my TV. It feels archaic.

So when will it be? When will we be laughing together about these big screens we used to buy and lug into our homes? When will be marveling that people used to lay out entire rooms of their house around these obsolete appliances? Will we be wearing Google glasses, all watching the same broadcast, when we share a chuckle? Will we be gaming in Oculus Rift headsets? Will we be watching shows beamed onto our walls or encased in our tablets or scrunched into our phones as our rocket to the moon prepares to blast off?

When will we laugh about TVs? It's got to be soon.


Comments

    Uh no peg

      To elaborate, nothing except my 50" TV and my HTS even comes remotely close to the cinematic experience, and there a whole lot of movie buffs out there. So no the TV still has a long and healthy life ahead of it.

      Best reference ever. I actually laughed.

      In response to the article, while the device known as the television may some day become obsolete, I don't believe the functioning it provides ever will, lest we end up in matrix pods. I'm sure we'll always have some need for a visual device or screen to provide for data/entertainment purposes.

      "plaaaaaattttt, let's have seeexxxxxx.."
      "uh, no Grayda"
      *laughter*
      *toilet flush*
      *hooting from audience*

    I'd watch tv but the digital reception is horrible, and there's not that much to see on the standard channels.

    I haven't watched T.V. in over a year, mostly shit on there anyway good ridince

    your under the assumption that everyone is content with mobile devices/computers, I'd say it would be more convergance than big screens disapearing

    big TV's are still good for movies and shows....in fact I'd say a home movie experence almost on par (or even better in some regards) to the cinema experince will be the final nail in the coffin for cinema

    that said I don;t even watch TV, my computer is my centre for everything

    The only time I use my TV is when I wake up and turn on News24 in the morning while I'm getting ready for work. The only other times I predict I'll use it is when GTA V comes out, but, if it does get a release on PC, I'll be on that like stink on a teenager. My wife and I use it for the rare DVD (she uses it mostly for my/now her 360), but 99% of what we watch is digital and, occasionally gets hooked up to the TV. I'm with Stephen on this. The TV seems much more like a bedrock of entertainment of our parent's generation. With the web being so readily accessible, the things we once used to require specialised, stationary devices to enjoy, are going to either adapt or fall by the wayside. I mean, how many people have a serious home sound system that's not part of their computer? People still do, but compared to 2000, that priority is way down.

      You use your TV exactly the same as I do, except I play sillier games on my console. Which is kinda interesting, since ABC24 is one of the few channels which you can do live streaming on for literally any device in your house/pocket.

        I stream ABC Newsradio while at work, you'd think I get enough news. :p That prediction about playing GTA V isn't looking too great, anyways. I got my wife a copy of Skyrim in December, she hasn't put it down since...

        One of us, one of us! But seriously, ABC24 over breakfast is all the tv I watch too.

      when valve releases steambox i think my tv will be punished again all the games i play on my pc but maxed out to the 55 inch tv. cannot wait

    I guess tvs might go away if everyone lived alone/never wanted to watch the same thing as their partner/friends and if movies and big budget tv stopped coming out and shows on the internet were widely available and nobody used subtitles ever and oh wait no it will never happen

      well never is an exaggeration but still.

    Can't wait for TV to die out, No more big brother, the voice ect...
    Media won't be able to scare people into believing bs

      I imagine that you're going to completely ignore this but if TV dies out, this would require the population to have other access to media. This other media will still hold shows such as Big Brother, The Voice, X Factor etc. It will also have news programs with the ownership wanting ratings which will influence them to make similar content.

      These programs aren't going to die out, only the platform

    what a ridiculously stupid article, tv's are not going anywhere and will more than likely still be here in 20 years time.

    There will always be a TV in my house. Older consoles tend to have miniature fits trying to work on newer TVs so there will always be one for those.

      Some older consoles however look fantastic. Like the NES and SNES look great on my 46" LCD. I haven't tried anything pre-RCA though, and the N64's 3D graphics look absolutely terrible.

      Never had a problem. Have used lots of consoles (RF) on my Bravia. Atari 2600, c64, dedicated pong variants, Amiga 500 with RF modulator. Everyone works because of the RF tuner. The only reason to use CRT is light gun games.

    Sure, I'll buy into this when you show me the tablet that can store my bluray library and has dolby HD MA coming out of them crappy pinhole sized stereo speakers.

      What? you can't have an external storage device on your home network? Why would you need a TV to store a bluray library? They have nothing to do with each other.

    I treat my Tv as a big monitor. Good for streaming shows of the internet mostly. And gaming too.

    While there is an argument to be made for individual entertainment and the changing role of the TV, what Stephen seems to miss, mostly, is the social aspect. Yes, he does touch on it at the end of the article but doesn't seem to equate that with the WiiU, which is still ultimately a familty console, a legacy of the Wii which Nintendo seems quite content with.
    TVs have become something which friends and family gather around to share entertainment.
    So while the TV is no longer the centre of all entertainment and its role is changing, it will always have a place, just like the oven and stove share the kitchen with the microwave.

    I know everyone is different, but I think there are way too many people who are still very attached to the big screen in the corner of the living room.

    There is hardly ever anything good on broadcast TV, especially at the time I want it to be. That being said, I watch a few cartoons in the morning, and I like having something on to distract me if I'm washing the dishes or cooking. But I still use my TV a lot. I often plug my laptop into my TV (through a receiver) to watch things on the bigger screen and with better sound. Hell, my PC is plugged into a TV rather than a 'monitor'. Same thing really.

    Last edited 23/04/13 12:07 pm

    I fail to see how projecting something onto a wall is any different from having a TV. You're getting a device whose only purpose is to project a picture. Your TV probably in front a large patch of unused wall, or in some cases, it's more practical than a projector because it's in the corner of a room where a projector wouldn't work. As for google glass or VR helmets, it will take a long time before those have sufficient resolution to compete with a standard screen. If you're confused about this, go watch John Carmack's last massive keynote speech where he talks about VR tech, latency and resolution.

    TVs aren't going away because of the social aspect and because people still do like the immersion of a big screen. As for headphones being a replacement for a 5.1 sound system... well... it's obvious you don't really care that much about sound, or you have some really top of the line headphones.

    I get the point of the article, but the TV is still a great means for entertainment at home, and is peerless in that regard for a group social activity. Everyone wearing google glasses or VR headsets or the like won't ever get the same feeling as watching a big screen together. Based on the mentality of this article, the television and live streaming of sport matches should have stopped anyone from going to watch them in person... but that's not about to happen any time soon.

      It's not different... except that it's not a TV. The article mentions that he uses other media devices for his viewing pleasures. He's only saying that the TV itself is obsolete.

        Hence my point. Why suggest a projector if it's effectively the same as a TV but still doesn't match the way he consumes media? I (and plenty of others, based on the comments here) don't think the core supposition of this article is really valid, but even if it were, a projector is as equally defunct as the television.

    No way in hell, you can pry my large monitor from my cold dead hands.

    I don't even understand how people watch a movie on a 30" screen now, let alone a 4.3" device.

    Do I watch less and less broadcast television? Yes. Do I watch more and more other content on my large screen? Definitely. I don't even watch many youtube videos on my laptop or phone, why would I when I can tell my phone to "play on xbox/playstation" and queue the same videos up on my 46" TV connected to my surround sound speakers?

    TV's will still be around for a long time, if anything I see cinema's struggling as bigger screens and 4K become more affordable. Really, are you going to go to the cinema to sit in a room with the annoying cackler, the guy who answers his phone and the cougher, or will you stay at home and watch your movie in the comfort of your lounge room on an 80" 4K screen?

      I agree - you can't beat a big screen TV with a good sound system for an 'at home' movie experience.

      The only time I go out to the cinema now is to see movies at the Imax theatre, because I consider that to be a significantly better experience that watching a movie at home, and the audience there is usually better behaved as well.

      The way we access content is definitely changing, and I'll watch movies on my laptop or tablet when it's convenient (e.g. while travelling), but when I'm at home, it's primarily on the big screen TV.

    Tv is gonna die out just like radio. Which ofcourse is still very much alive. Btw read title had this discussion years ago, since then more channels have bee added.

    didn't read the article.

    Last edited 23/04/13 12:08 pm

      I think I listen to more radio these days than watch tv? In the car, streaming on the pc, my phone... radio aint going nowhere. Neither is tv. It will change in its style of delivery though.

    It was also predicted that radio would be killed off with the invention of television... oops. As long as their is money to be made it will exist and advertisers love TV and fear online.

    Really, according to this dipshit, when I am at home with access to a 110" screen and 7.2 surround sound I am somehow meant to settle for a 10" screen and 2 headphones because "that’s immersion enough". Maybe for you but I actually like surround sound and big screens. Why should I settle for less? Why compromise my at home experience for portability when I don’t have to?
    His whole argument is based on the presumption that small portable devices and a large fixed display device are somehow mutually exclusive. They aren't, simple as that and it makes his whole argument pointless.
    iPad/phone paired with Apple TV, Razer Edge type tablet with a docking station attached to a TV, Playstation games where you can play on PS3 then move over to the Vita and continue on where you left off. All valid options to enjoy the best of both fixed large displays and portability.

      Agreed. A small screen and headphones cannot replicate the experience of lounging on a couch getting punched and slapped by quality bass and treble. I want hi-def, not iTunes hi-def, but 60Mbit/sec of audio and video to wow my senses.

      As average as the movie is, I still took the time to enjoy the fun and experience of the pod race sequence from SW: Ep1 they had on demo setup because you can feel the audio shift and pan and the low frequencies rumble your organs. Audio should have presence and should be felt and a small device cannot deliver that.

      Long live the AV setup.

        The pod race scene was one of the scenes I used to test out my set up.

    yeah really? I dont think so, tv as it's moved to the digital age has just been improving and showing how it can keep up and adapt. Getting tv series hours after being released in the US and just being all round good to put on when you don't know what to watch otherwise its also boring watching the same thing for an entire series at a time tv mixes it up nicely, even with awesome internet I still continue to watch tv.

    My wife and I watch DVDs on our TV every night. I'm quite prepared to accept the possibility that mobile gaming is about to undergo a huge boom at the expense of home-based gaming, but TV as a whole? Forget it. There's more than just a big screen in its favour - there's a whole slice of everyday family life.

    I use my TV all the time.

    Not as a television, just as a screen for my consoles or PC. I like the big screen for gaming, melting back into my recliner and taking the whole thing in.

    Handheld screen are fine but I prefer gaming on the big screen. Same for tv shows and movies.

      My PC Monitor is a 32" HDTV and a lot of my friends are the same.
      I know I cant ever go back to 24" monitor now... but i do want a higher res 30"

    Pffft. I use my TV to read comic books, watch TV off internet, PC, PS3, PS2 with 7.4 surround sound (yes I need four subs). Free to air might die off but the TV as a monitor will last forever.

    Small portable screen with stereo sound cant replace that. Why dont you concentrate on your next article being the death of cinema?

    My TV also has a AV switch to me leagacy devices being xbox, VHS players, DVD players, security cameras and PSONE. Oh i can plug in my digital camera and camcorder for playback aswell.

    Couldn't be furtherer from the truth. TV's will never die and will always be the focus of every single lounge room for the next 100 years.

    The future is 3D,4D, 4K and wall sized monitors.

    I'd have a friggin IMAX screen in my house if i could fit it.

      I don't even have a TV. Guess you're wrong.

    "I got 99 problems but third world problems aint one..."

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