What exactly do we mean by TV?


I probably shouldn’t write about this, but I can’t help myself. I had a conversation with a copy editor at the Globe tonight, for a story on Lonelygirl15 (which is in the paper tomorrow — see post below), and I found it revealing and frustrating at the same time. Let me say before I start that copy editors are incredibly important. And this one is not only very nice, but rescued me from making a stupid mistake with a name, and I appreciate that hugely.

snipshot_e415naaw9xpx.jpgSo I wrote about Lonelygirl15 doing a spinoff called KateModern, which is based in London, and I said that this new media, Internet-television experiment was getting something that is traditionally associated with TV — a spinoff. But the copy editor in question had serious problems with the way I put it. “What’s Internet television?” she said. “Is it on TV?” Well, no. “Then what makes it television?” Good question, I said. That’s kind of the point, in fact. So we agreed to call it Internet video — but I think it’s more than that. It’s short-form, episodic, character and plot driven narrative. How is that not television? But it’s not on TV.

So this editor kept getting confused when I mentioned TV, because this isn’t on TV and never will be, in the sense that it isn’t on “the box” and doesn’t come from a network. So what about streaming TV — is that TV? What about out-takes and mobisodes featuring the same actors — is that TV? That’s kind of what I’m writing about. But it makes it hard when even the people I’m writing it for don’t get what it is I’m writing about. And Mark Kuznicki shares my pain.

Comments (5)

  1. Tony Hung wrote::

    Interesting debate about the evolving lexicon of new media. Having said that, and being the total arm chair quarterback / backseat driver here, I think you would have done well to stand your ground.

    True, “Internet TV” has nothing to do with TV as a medium, but for many who are conversant in “new media topics”, there is a shared understanding that the “TV” in “InternetTV” goes beyond the medium itself to characterize a type of content format.

    For many people it is actually ripped television shows that are broadcast / streamed across the Internet.

    For others, and for the purpose of your article, it is, as you say, short, episodic videos that have a lot in common with the content that is actually on television.

    Then again, what do I know? Maybe that’s what you actually said anyway. ;)

    t @ dji

    Thursday, April 26, 2007 at 12:22 am #
  2. But “Internet television” CAN be on “the box”. It is if you got it via TiVo broadband, or if you ran it through the new Apple TV device.

    And if I had a TV tuner card in my computer and watched a broadcast on the computer screen, I’d call it watching TV. Meanwhile, if my wife and I watch a DVD movie on our TV set, we don’t call it watching TV, we call it watching a video. (Well, we usually call it watching a movie, but we did get it from the “video” rental place.)

    So I would argue that whether something is “TV” or not depends not on the particular screen that you watch a show on, but on what actions you take to see the show. Something that comes on automatically at a particular time is called television, while if you have to insert a physical DVD or videocassette it’s called a video. In between lie the things that are on demand (like a DVD is) but don’t come on a physical medium, such as cable Video On Demand and YouTube. I think that how likely one of these things is to be called TV is determined by how closely it resembles traditional TV. A TV show recorded and watched later through a VCR or DVR is still a TV show. Less obviously, Joost is Internet-based but you control it a lot like television: you select a “channel” and it plays the channel’s shows in a sequence of its own choosing (though you can choose to override and jump to a later or earlier show). I would call watching Joost watching television. As for cable Video On Demand, I’ve heard people talking about watching things “on Rod” (Rogers On Demand), while others would say they were watching television. It wouldn’t surprise me if people using Apple TV devices to watch YouTube videos say they’re watching television.

    Thursday, April 26, 2007 at 6:43 am #
  3. Mark Kuznicki wrote::

    Mathew, great question and one I’m wrestling with myself.

    From a user’s perspective, I believe that television is a passive living room experience with a remote in hand. So if internet video is streamed onto a large screen with a remote to control it from the couch we should be able to call it “television”.

    However, I speculate that Rogers, CTV and Canwest would not call that television because it doesn’t fit into standard broadcast channels, pipes and business models. i.e. if the traditional broadcast industry doesn’t own the distribution channel and content, it’s not television.

    So who’s right – the user or the industry that invented the word in the first place?

    Thursday, April 26, 2007 at 6:54 am #
  4. Webomatica wrote::

    Tricky. I think I agree with Rohan about the manner in which the media is digested. When I use Joost, I feel like my computer has been turned into a television – in that you flip through channels and the video takes over the entire screen. So it feels like television.

    But then on the other side, when I watch Battlestar Galactica via an iTunes download, and I watch that on my computer (or even a video iPod), I don’t feel like I’m watching television. It’s a television show, that I’m watching on the computer.

    Is someone using the TiVo to time-shift all their TV shows still watching television? Probably yes. But if those shows are tranferred to the computer and watched there? Probably not.

    So even though the original entertainment is formatted for TV how it’s been delivered has a lot to do with it, too.

    Even though I’ve now thoroughly confused myself, I get what you’re writing about, generally speaking, though.

    Thursday, April 26, 2007 at 8:16 pm #
  5. joe wrote::

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    Sunday, March 15, 2009 at 11:03 am #