Just recently, CBS, the Tiffany Network, the avatar of appointment television, announced that it was beginning to experiment with subscription streaming, signaling the beginning of the end of old fashion television. And yet, all is not lost. Because what, after all, will CBS be streaming? Those old, popular shows, the ones we once had to make appointments to watch.
Not so long ago . . . to watch Lucy, or Gleason, or Milton Berle, or All in the Family, or any of those shows, you had to be there, facing the TV, when they were on the air. There was no such animal as “On Demand” or TIvo. There was no flexibility, no watching at your leisure. The networks ruled your life, told you exactly what day and what time to show up and view. If you weren’t there, you missed it. Period. Or, if you were lucky, you’d catch a rerun.We didn’t have much choice in what we watched either. CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS and a few local stations perhaps. The network offerings were limited. There was no cable. The TV was simple to use, with an on-off button and a channel selector.
Back then, television brought us together. Wherever we lived in the country, we watched the same programs at the same time. We watched as a family, mom, dad and kids. People would get together at the office the next day to discuss what they saw on TV. Television united us, helped make us one nation.Today, everyone in the household is likely to have his or her own screen. I haven’t seen the data, but anecdotally it seems that, after dinner, everyone retreats to his or her room and watches something different. Or downloads. Or streams. It’s a whole new world of viewing.Now we might discuss Homeland or Breaking Bad or some other show over lunch at work, but just as likely no two people at the table would have seen the same show at the same time.