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With DVRs and the Internet, Is the ‘TV Schedule’ Outdated Today?

by  in Comic News, TV News Comment

As we said yesterday, this week saw the broadcast networks reveal their 2012 Fall schedules, telling advertisers, reporters and other interested parties what to expect from the next year of TV. But how important was the “schedule” part, exactly …? Does it even matter when shows are on anymore?

While I was as excited to see the line-up of new shows (and returning favorites) as anyone, I found the amount of interest over which shows would conflict time slots with which other shows, or which shows were moving nights, somewhat surprising. It’s not that I don’t care about the television math and metric that keeps shows healthy and alive, but in today’s fragmented media world, I’m surprised that the idea of a “schedule” is still quite so strong.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t watch live TV anymore, for the most part. It’s not that I have anything against live TV, although I know plenty of people who do (mostly the commercials, it has to be said), but just that … I want to watch more shows than I have time to each week, so my DVR is constantly full of options, meaning that I can pick and choose what I’m in the mood for, versus whatever happens to be on whenever I find myself with enough time to sit down and turn the television on. Not that that’s the only way I watch shows; thanks to mobile devices and various apps, I can watch entire series without going anywhere near a television (I’ve seen all of the second season of Happy Endings via the ABC app, for example; reading that it’ll now be on opposite New Girl brought a reaction of “Oh, that’s right, it’s actually a television show that’s on on prime time, it’s not just this fun thing I watch on the iPad at weekends” more than anything else). It’s possible that I’m a complete aberration, but I’m not convinced that that’s the case; ABC’s upfront seemed as interested in online clicks and real-time ratings.

There’s long been the idea of “cord-cutting,” of the internet somehow replacing television as the primary method of watching shows. It’s an idea that is constantly contradicted by reality (For example, paid television subscriptions actually rose last quarter, when they were expected to drop for the first time as a result of alternate viewing opportunities), and one that I think ignores the ease and social appeals of television as a format/medium: When you factor in DVRs allowing viewers to control their own schedules, why would viewers shy away in favor of the (inferior, in my opinion) option of streamed media that’s limited by how good your wifi is at that time or how big your screen is…?

The future of format is almost the one we have now, I think: A multitude of ways in which to view content, with the one difference that each option will be given equal importance – or, at least, more equal than now – by broadcasters and content producers so that iPads are as important as laptops are as important as televisions and so on. If we reach that particular entertainment singularity, then “schedule announcements” will be a thing of the past, because everything will be available to viewers as they want it.

Of course, I may be a tech-optimist. I’m curious, now: How do you watch television these days – and how would you like to, in the future? Use the comments to share your thoughts.