TV’s ARE SMARTER THAN EVER

Recently released data from Hub Entertainment Research, a media based marketing and data research firm based in Boston, stated that some three quarters (76%) of homes have a Smart TV, up from 70% a year ago and the majority (57%) of all TV sets are now smart sets, a proportion a quarter higher than in 2020 (45%) as reported through Hub Entertainment’s fourth annual study, “Connected Home”.

That is adding towards sizable changes in the way viewers access video content. In the not too distant past, many of these smart TVs were operated as “dumb(er)” sets, where users plugged them into cable tuner devices or external streaming devices, overlooking their built-in smart capabilities. 

Now, more than four in five (86%) of smart TV homes regularly streamed shows through a smart TV’s built-in capability, a significant increase over two years before (75%), although a significant segment of smart TV homes aren’t yet using those sets to stream wide content.

It’s no real surprise that over the last few years, the face of how folks receive their video based media has shirted. Thanks to the pandemic where folks were forced to stay put within their dwelling spaces, the rise of streaming as well as video content delivered through an internet connection has skyrocketed. Meaning that one can now view video content, be it a feature, a traditional television program, or any source of elements that consists of moving imagery and the soundtrack that syncs with the pictures where ever they go, just as long as their device can accept such video/audio and can sync up to an internet connection.

Over the past fifty or so years, television in North America, and perhaps a good part of the world, has seen many “second comings” of television. Perhaps the most significant change since the start of TV programming and ownership in the USA since 1948, the year when television reception was first made available within the major cities and communities, was the transmission of TV signals in color. Even though there were color signals first transmitted as early as 1950, it wasn’t until the 1960’s when color TV became more and more frequent as much as it was emphasized.

It wasn’t until 1972 (fifty years ago) when the ownership of color TVs reached its majority, around 50% depending on what stats on ownership can be researched. And by 1980, some 83% of those homes with a TV set were of a color capacity.

That period also entered yet another “second coming” of TV. The rise of cable television and home video. In the latter part of the 1970’s, the interest of getting signals through a coax cable was first presented to major cities around the nation. And when these notes refer to “cable TV”, this is a service where unique channels of programming were made available rather than the service of receiving regional or longer distant over the air broadcasts. That type of service was only made in rural and semi rural communities that were not able to receive standard over the air signals due to distance and terrain.

Cable TV didn’t catch on right away due to the limited amount of unique channels made available only through cable at the time, as well as many communities didn’t have access to such TV services. Ted Turner’s WTBS, an independent over the air channel (channel 17) based in Atlanta, Georgia started to transmit their signal to CATV systems as early as 1976, although its programming consisted of old movies, reruns of older TV shows, with occasional sports programming, mostly Atlanta Braves baseball games.

By the end of the decade, other channels were created that offered an alternative to the traditional over the air content, such as independent stations as WOR based in Secaucus, New Jersey (New York City area), WGN in Chicago, as well as Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) that offered religious and spiritual programming, Nickelodeon that offers kid’s shows for twelve hours per day, CSPAN that telecast House of Representative sessions and related government-type programming without narration or commentary, the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) that offered sporting events that were mostly akin to what ABC’s Wide World of Sports, The CBS Sports Spectacular, and NBC’s Sportworld would usually carry, as well as a few other channels that were either morphed into other channels or were just dropped off the wayside.  And this doesn’t count two other channels, Home Box Office (HBO), and Showtime, that offered movies and other programs that were uncut, uncensored, and commercial free. Those one had to pay for. And there was the Z Channel that also offered the same thing, but that service was only limited to Los Angeles and parts of southern California.

Then there was home video. Sony Electronics first offered their Betamax video cassette recorders (VCRs) in 1975, first as a device with a built-in Trinitron TV set, later offering a model that was a stand alone unit. Within a year or so, JVC offered their Video Home System (VHS) devices that used a tape that was different in size and was not compatible with Sony’s beta. With these units, one can videotape programming off the air to watch at a later time that was more convenient towards the user. Those didn’t catch on at first since a VCR was far from being inexpensive. (RCA’s first VTR, model VDT 600, retailed for about $1200.00 in 1977, around $5600.00 in today’s dollars!) It wasn’t until 1982 when the price of VCRs began to drop, meaning that more folks got one of these devices to either record shows off the air, or to rent pre-recorded video tapes from a video rental place found in many neighborhoods. Those tapes usually consisted of feature films, although there were a few specialty titles that were made available for rental or purchase.

As the 20th century gave way to the 21st, TV’s changed again and again. Now devices that were of a flat screen nature started to make its way to consumers that were to replace the big and rather bulky cathode-ray tube sets (CRTs) that had been around since its beginnings. In the 2000s and early 2010s, many folks junked their CRT sets to replace them with a flat screen unit that was bigger, wider, and much lighter in weight as well as offered a much sharper picture at 750p (pixes) resolution. Many of the CRT sets that folks once owned were abandoned. They were offered on the open market, being donated through Goodwill, The Salvation Army or to whoever would accept these devices, and even left on curb sides just for the taking! (Many of these sets were still in operational condition at their time of abandonment, meaning that these sets went through premature deaths!)

Soon, these flat screen sets lead to flat(er) screen devices that were at 1080p, then 4K, 8K, and even higher definition in picture quality, As to programming content, that lead to more channels (200 unique channels and up) made available through the local cable provider or made available through satellite transmission. And hove video gave way from lower resolution videotapes to digital video disks (DVDs) that offered more content with a better picture quality housed in a vinyl disk only 5” in diameter. These DVDs eventually replaced the 12” laserdiscs that Pioneer and Phillips electronics introduced in 1979 that offered a much better picture than what videotapes could provide, but faded away by the turn of the 21st century!

Then there was streaming, first introduced by Netflix in 2007 where one can receive content via a high speed internet connection. When high speed internet connects were made available, folks jumped on the subscription bandwagon to Netflix that can receive content must sooner that its traditional DVD rental service that sent DVDs through the mail where folks can watch their content, send them back through the pre-addressed envelope or receive another DVD for viewing, as the cycle would continue.

Then Netflix received competition from other sources, from online retailer Amazon, Apple with their Apple TV, as well as the movie studios (Warner, Paramount, Disney, etc.) and the traditional broadcast networks–ABC, CBS, and NBC. The choices were far more than once could consume!

So with all of this being stated, how many “second comings” of television made its mark? We lost track! And the notion is, there are others coming down the pike from Web 3.0 and the metaverse where one can only watch the internet, but live in it! Those will be the many second coming that will be presented sooner than one can imagine.

As TV becomes bigger, flatter, and of course smarter, what does all of this compare to the consumer. Are they getting bigger, flatter or even smarter? That is depending on who one asks, and the method of asking, if not expressing. Modern society as we know it came a long way from the time where receiving audio and/or video signals from the netherland was the be-all-to-end-all. Then again, even receiving messages via smoke signals, tom-tom drums, and carrier pigeon was the best way for communication. That was it because there wasn’t anything decent to catch on TV–if TV would have only existed back in that day!

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