A few weeks ago, in Hagerstown Hall's eighth floor lounge, a student repeatedly bashed his head into the television screen until it cracked, ending the TV for good. The student was reprimanded, but the broken television still remains mounted on the lounge wall. The most shocking part of it all: not a single resident cares.
And why should they? Think about the last time you actively watched TV. I don't mean the last time you happened to catch a glimpse of the news while eating lunch in the dining hall — I mean the last time you stopped what you were doing, walked to the nearest TV, and turned on the newest episode of your favorite show. For some of us, this may have very well been within the last week or two. But for a majority of us, myself included, this took place within the realm of the past few months, maybe even years.
It's been nearly twelve years since Netflix changed the way the world watched TV by introducing its streaming network, and since that time, streaming TV rather than watching it live has become the norm. You'd be hard-pressed to find a friend who doesn't subscribe to at least one streaming platform, what with almost 60% of the American public owning some form of this service.
On top of this, Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube Red — just to name a few — have begun producing their own feature TV shows in addition to providing major network shows, meaning that users can get all the new content they want without buying a TV contract. Combined with the powers of binge-watching, it is now more convenient to watch Netflix or Hulu — whenever you want, wherever you want — than to watch traditional TV. In a society driven by social media and instant gratification, it no longer makes sense to wait a week for the next installment of Riverdale.
Unsurprisingly, TV is not doing well. Some speculate that the rise of streaming is the beginning of the end for broadcast television, fueled by recent reports that Americans aged 18 to 34 are watching only a third of what adults 50 to 64 do. What's more, many millennials are choosing to forgo cable plans altogether; the total number of households never owning a TV subscription is expected to rise to 48 million by 2020.
It's more than just a theory: as streaming popularity rises, TV viewership declines. This trend is reflected in ad sales too, as prominent companies begin to invest more advertising in digital revenues versus on television, especially when they want to attract a younger audience.
In response to its inevitable decline, television has tried to change, with big-name networks like CBS and NBC putting out not only more primetime shows, but higher quality ones as well, fit with recognized directors and actors from the big screen. Plots are becoming more complex, even confusing, driven by an audience with the ability to communicate every last scene on a worldwide scale and predict the show's direction.
No matter how much TV changes, however, the threat of streaming will always remain. TV's prime has come and gone, and a new medium has arrived to replace it. Older generations will still appreciate television for what it once was, while the younger population will flock to Netflix for its ease. In any event, TV will continue — but there will be few left to watch it.