A recent Ipsos Reid poll showed the average Canadian is spending more time online than watching television. To get a clear picture on how this shift in mediums affects us as technologists, we need to question exactly what people are doing on the web versus watching TV.
Advances in streaming media and content archiving technology have made watching broadcast TV from our monitors and mobile devices increasingly easy. It’s no surprise then that some Canadians are simply switching to a different medium to watch their favourite shows. But watching television online isn’t the same as being parked in front of a flat-screen TV.
TV over the web is a different kind of social activity than when we grew up, with a TV tray folded out in front the Cosby’s with our family. From watching sports highlights emailed to us from friends to Twittering clips of the latest SNL Digital Short, we have, in the words of NPR Radio’s Terry Gross, moved from a culture of shared experiences to a culture of sharing experiences.
As an example, applications like FrogDesign’s tvChatter cater to viewers who want to actively share their opinions via Twitter amongst fellow watchers.
A simple change in how we watch TV gives technologists like us a new dimension to consider when crafting web experiences around television viewing.
Watching TV and…
Nothing in the poll suggests that viewers are trading in their hours for the web. Being online isn’t an isolated behavior – it’s just as easy to enjoy a TV show while checking sports scores or chatting with friends. In short, there is an overlap between time spent online and time spent watching TV.
Some companies are starting to capitalize on this overlap by producing desktop and mobile applications as accessories to television content. An example of this is the NBA TV Companion which allows viewers to use their laptop to track real time scores and statistics of the game they are watching. Providing this service allows the NBA to extend their brand outside of the game and promote their alternative (subscriber-based) products.
Playing, Not Viewing
Looking ahead, live-action web games may seed of a new kind of television entertainment. These experiences mix original content with interactive elements to create a richer viewing experience.
For example, projects like Bank Run, an original series produced for the web and mobile devices, is a great example of interactive entertainment. Viewers become players, moving the storyline forward through various interactions similar to those from classic games like Dragon’s Lair. The story is split up into two segments, the second in a form of an iPhone app that players have to purchase to finish the story.
The If I Can Dream series, sponsored by big brands Pepsi and Ford, pushes the boundaries of reality television by allowing viewers to experience the show via live web streams, archive footage or following specific events or actors. Viewers themselves are able to become part of the show through web-cam auditions.
Finally, we’re close to completing an original story for a popular TV series as a live-action web game ourselves. In the experience viewers become players, engaging with the story and sharing their results and progress with friends via social channels. We’ll gladly share more details about the project when it goes live.
In short, as the web takes precedence over TV the opportunities for how we create and present media grows with it. We’re looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that come with that growth.