The History and Future of Television
Nowadays it can be incredibly difficult to even imagine a time before television. Before the internet, it was the quickest and most everpresent form of sharing information to the entire nation all at once. And though it is not so much the primary source of instant news that it once was, television still remains one of the main forms of entertainment for people across the nation, and indeed, the world—in fact, there are now more television programs airing in the United States than ever before. How did we get to this point? And where do we go from here? Let’s take a look at the evolution of television, and some of the things that we can expect to see in the future.
The Post-War Television Boom
As the world finally started to truly recover from World War Two, we started to see the television really take its place in the heart of Western culture. Though the first television was invented long before this, it really didn’t take hold in the way that we know it now until the 1950’s, when TVs started to be commercially produced; and it didn’t really turn into the cultural force it would later become until the 1960’s, most American homes had one.
Shows like I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone, and the Beverly Hillbillies were making their cultural footprint during this time, which was really defined by live coverage—culminating in the moon landing in 1969; television was certainly an event medium during this period, and continued to be so once color TV took hold.
Indeed, throughout the eighties and nineties, event television—in particular finales for landmark television shows—would cause the biggest ratings that we have yet to see, as shows such as MASH, Cheers, Seinfeld, and Friends said goodbye.
Digital TV and DVRs
It’s fair to say that TV has not quite been the same since the nineties, and early parts of this century. This in large part thanks to the rise of digital television, and the national switchover which occurred in the 2010s. But while we enjoyed better viewing quality, broadcast television networks enjoyed much smaller ratings. Why? Cable networks had risen to take their fair share of the viewing figures, and DVRs started to become staples in the homes of those who wished to skip commercials within their shows. But all of that is nothing compared to what was about to come next...
Streaming and Smart TVs
As we move forward into the present and future of television and film, there is only one direction in which it is currently moving—on demand. While DVRs gave people the freedom to choose when to watch their favorite episodes each week, streaming services like Netflix provided people with the opportunity to dictate their entire viewing process—deciding exactly when and where they would watch entire seasons of shows. The age of binge watching, smart TVs, and handheld devices has begun. While movie theaters and film festivals have just about managed to keep the old-fashioned movie experience in tact, television has been forced to change and adapt. While Park City theaters will still fill with people each January, there is no way to force people to tune into the premiere episode of even their favorite television shows.
What will the future hold? No one can quite know for sure, and while current tech developers are flirting with 3D, 4K and Virtual Reality, it remains to be seen just which new developments will actually take hold. If there is one thing that decades of television has taught us however, it is that television will always be around—whatever form it takes.