Monday, September 24, 2007

Television On Demand -- The Demise of the Shared Experience (or, "I'm Going to the Water Cooler for ... Water")

David Carr of the New York Times today writes a fascinating story about certain unspoken consequences of the consumers' digital media experience and, in particular, watching television shows on demand (what you want, and when you want it). Specifically, previously, in a time where television networks dictated the schedules of our programmingco, co-workers used to gather around the proverbial water cooler to talk about what they all saw on television the night before. Yes, we had no choice when to watch our favorite shows -- we had to watch when the time slot told us to watch (which is bad) -- but we did know we were watching when our friends/colleagues were watching (which is good ... at least if you care for shared collective experiences).

Those times, of course, are fast going the way of the dodo bird, in a television world in which more and more of us watch our shows on demand -- both on our televisions (via our DVRs) or increasingly on the Internet as well.

Now, in an on demand television world, if I find out "who shot J.R.?," I can spoil the fun for my friends at the water cooler the next day (or anytime throughout the day if I watch my show on the job and in the workplace) by simply blurting out the news before they see it. Two bad things happen -- I become persona non grata to my colleagues (to whom I spoiled the fun) and, second, that person has less of an interest in watching the show in the first place. What's the point? I know the punchline!

Make no mistake -- I love the on demand world. But, no doubt about it -- the water cooler just ain't as much fun as it used to be. (NOTE: the water cooler is taking a double hit these days with more people packing their own bottled water -- call it "water on demand" ....)