Television of the Future: Marathon TV

Arlene Atherton presents new developments in the world of television, stating that TV as we know it today will soon be outdated.

Slowly but surely, TV sets are getting discarded. Who needs a TV box in the living-room if there are computers, tablets, or smartphones at hand? “Marathon TV”, also known as “Binge TV”, is the glorious opportunity to watch what you want, when you want, and for as long as you want. Network wars and TV commercial spots will soon be a thing of the past.

A whole host of alternative venue distributors such as Hulu Plus, Aereo, Al Jazeera English, or NBC News have taken over what used to be the purview of Network TV. Movies on HBO, Netflix, or Amazon Instant Video are examples of more flexible television. No longer do you have to rely on bootleg YouTube videos or pirated Vimeo; the networks have wised up. ABC Family created hulu.com in order to make their serials available for an ever-present demand: when you miss a premiere or special issue you can go back and see it anytime you like without losing the episode.

Hulu.com has taken it one step further and replaced the commercial spots with public service announcements. In other words: corporate America pays premium ad rates for the network time slot, while charities and non-profits receive the discounted rate for the aftermarket on hulu.com.

So what do Americans like to watch? When the Wall Street Journal Community asked in their “Question of the Day”: “Are you a Binge TV watcher?”, 55% said Yes, 6 % said they used to be, and 39% said No. The top shows that people are watching span from classics to contemporary: "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad", as well as "The Sopranos", "Frasier", "Galatica", and "Twin Peaks" are listed.

Origins of Marathon TV

But how does Marathon TV work? It is a continuous broadcast of a single show with multiple episodes or perhaps a single artist’s work in cinema. It originally started with cable TV distribution replicating the idea of radio show marathons.

Why does the network turn to marathons for distribution? There are four classic reasons: 1) to increase the popularity of a series, 2) to renew interest in a series that has ended and is being revived, 3) to showcase a well known star, and 4) it is an inexpensive way to counter major programming like the Olympics or the Super Bowl.

Three recent examples of honoring a past celebrity are the promotion of Whitney Houston’s hit film Bodyguard shortly after her death and the extensive eulogizing of Dick Clark and Andy Griffith after their passing. "We are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend, Andy Griffith," TV Land President Larry W. Jones said in a statement. "His contributions to the entertainment industry and his role as Sheriff Andy Taylor will live forever in the minds and hearts of generations of television viewers past, present and yet to come. The entire TV Land staff will miss him and our thoughts go out to his family."

More Flexibility for a Changing World

In fact, there is a new distributor of local TV in New York City, Aereo, who offers live TV on your computer. The ability to gain access without having to own a bulky box is the future of TV. Complete with online tools it allows you to skip tedious commercials, record your favorite shows, and tune in any time you like, from anywhere, for a subscription price of $12 a month.

As for competitive viewing, let’s look at the Memorial Day weekend, where the family is at home and the holiday lends itself to local activities. Over the holiday there were 27 cable channels that broadcast marathons: ABC Family offered the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, Syfy provided a "Nightmare on Elm Street" collection, and National Geographic ran back-to-back specials.

Have you already watched the full series of "Law and Order" or do you need something new to spice your purveyance for finding predators? Dumping the networks and the old TV box, you just tune into WiFi. Thanks to the internet we can country hop our viewing pleasure as well. The Brit drama "Wire in the Blood" takes us elsewhere to solve crimes and you can easily fulfill such a desire with their episodes.

There are psychologists who question the commitment to TV viewing in sequence, but the public does not. If you find yourself homesick and want to catch up with your favorite show, you just tune in on your bed. Or maybe you missed your favorite game due to business concerns. Simply re-watch it during your lunch hour.

Marathon TV is the next step in consuming media. The customer has the choice and they can indulge in having the media work around their schedule instead of being tied to a network schedule. Therefore, broadcast licensing will be changing and channel value will no longer hold the premium it did in the past.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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