The holy grail of television networks was to create these moments – a focal point in the collective cultural timeline.
The idea of a ‘water cooler moment’ seems very quaint now. We all know that we consume television in an entirely different way. Apart from sporting events and certain national occasions, television is shifting more and more away from a linear to a non-linear experience.
I would go so far as to say that television itself is starting to feel rather quaint. Many millennials don’t even own a television. They rely on laptops, tablets and streaming services to get their fix of binge watching. Television has started to seem like something for your mum and dad – a bit like landline numbers.
When Apple announced a few months ago that they were opening up their Apple TV platform to external developers, the internet was abuzz with 'thought leaders' proclaiming a new ear of television.
Suddenly the future of TV was all about apps. The humble television, gathering dust in the corner of the front room could be transformed into a new household entertainment centre.
To some extent the ‘thought leaders’ were right. I’ve had my Apple TV for about a month now and I can see the huge possibilities on this platform. It feels very egalitarian, very open and very exciting. One of the great things about the internet is how it allowed ideas to disseminate. It’s now hard to remember a time before, when content and opinions were controlled so rigidly by a few ‘taste makers’ and editors. In my opinion society is greatly enriched by this change.
There’s a bright future ahead for content creators. Just as the internet unleashed a new era of creativity, I fully expect the same to happen on television as the platform is opened up by Apple, Roku and others. Some pundits have suggested the launch of the new generation Apple TV is as significant as the launch of the iPhone.
There is one crucial difference however. In general smartphones and tablets are a personal experience. Catch up services, music streaming services, news apps all have one thing in common – tailoring of content to one’s own personal preferences. I choose exactly what I consume .
Television by it’s very nature is a collective experience. The television is built to be watched by many, to broadcast from the few to the masses. That has been its power for the last 60 years. How would the assassination of JFK or 911 have been experienced if we’d all watched the footage individually on our smartphones? Sure we would have seen the same videos, but would the collective emotional response have been the same?
The question is whether this brave new world of television will be social, or individual. Will the new television be just a bigger version of the tablet, or an actual separate medium - something really televisual?
Human beings are social animals. They like to share things. From watching a beautiful sunset to sharing office gossip -experience is somehow heightened when it’s shared with others.
And that is the essence of the “water cooler moment” . Will that still be possible if television becomes a solitary experience?
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