In the first BCM241 tutorial of the semester, discussion revolved around television and memories. Common conversation was concerned with personal memories and experiences involving the viewing of television programs. A particular conversation I found myself immersed in was one that surrounded the lack of real time viewing of television programs in contemporary times, with streaming services allowing us to view programs at our own convenience, as opposed to sitting idly in-front of the TV awaiting the new episode of the most popular new show.
With the prolific popularity of streaming services such as Netflix, Stan and Hayu, the television experience has become much less communal in conjunction with becoming increasingly accessible, shifting the social sphere of viewing and flipping it on its head. Such services allow individuals to watch and rewatch television and movies at their own leisure, giving those who cannot view their favourite television program at a conventional time, the chance to enjoy TV, just as much as those who can.
Despite my initial concurrence with the idea that program streaming is a new concept that has allowed for improved access to television, the more I pondered, the more I realised, watching television at a time after the program has aired and being able to watch a particular program, movie or episode over again, is not such a new advancement. This realisation brings me to share my earliest television memory.
In the year 2000, At the age of 3, I was a self-declared Brittany Spears fanatic. So, when the pop stars ‘You Drive me Crazy World Tour’ aired on television, and I was too young to stay up past my bedtime and watch it, naturally, I was devastated. My mother, being the woman, she is, recorded the entire concert on a VHS tape, and, from that point on, the concert was immortalised. I would watch Britney perform over and over, begging mum to rewind the tape so I could perfect the exact dance moves and outfit choices made by the pop star, I so desperately wanted to be.
This process of watching and rewatching reminded me a lot of how I watch television now. The same principles apply to watching Netflix, online, as they do to busting out an ancient VHS tape and recording, playing and rewinding. Both streaming processes allow the viewer to access media at any time, personalising and allowing for the individualisation of the television experience.
Though, while I assert that these two concepts of streaming, both past and present, are quite similar in nature, I do agree that streaming, at the present time, reduces the need for pre-planning: you decide what you want to watch, and as long as you’re connected, you can do it right that second, even if the show you want to see aired last week. This flexibility increases convenience, allows for the infiltration of previously off-limits contexts, and removes the felt necessity to watch a certain program at a certain time in a certain place.Although the VHS tape allowed for the process of watching and rewatching at convenient times, it didn’t allow for the reduction of pre planning in order to record the desired program.
So, it is, that I argue, television streaming has always been around, not always in the form of specialised streaming services, like that of Netflix, but in more basic forms as purchasing a blank VHS tape, pressing record and reusing the tape to record over when you got sick of watching the Britney Spears concert. (That never happened).
Either way, streaming, via VHS or through new and improved technologies, has increased the scope of television, completely changing the dynamic. Gone are the days of predetermined viewing times and here are the days where it is perfectly acceptable to watch your favourite television series at 2am, chatting about it with friends, while trying to avoid sharing spoilers because you’ve watched more episodes than them.
Jones, E 2009, ‘Network Television Streaming Technologies and the Shifting Television Social Sphere’ Media in Transition 6: Stone and Papyrus, Storage and Transmission. Vol. 6 pp. 3-9