5:03am

Wed October 24, 2012
How We Watch What We Watch

So Many Screens, And So Little Time To Watch

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 7:30 am

While sitting on a couch and gazing at a 50-inch TV remains a popular pastime in America, smaller screens have also edged their way into our lives. Phones, tablets and video game devices crowd pockets and coffee tables, offering access to what used to be called "TV," at any time of the day.

The change in our viewing habits means that many dens are littered with wires and cables that put everything from HD-quality video to grainy YouTube clips at our fingertips. And the new technology can also bring both excitement and frustration, as television critic Eric Deggans of The Tampa Bay Times tells Morning Edition's David Greene.

Like many Americans, Deggans has a DVR to allow him to record programs. As for the rest of his setup, here's how he describes it:

"I have a Blu-Ray disc player that also can wirelessly access different video resources, so I can get Amazon on demand or Netflix through that. I have Apple TV hooked up, and I use that to access media that's on my iMac computer, and also to access Netflix and Hulu Plus, and some of these online video services."

The result is a wealth of choices and a wide range of quality, Deggans says. The wide range of options are the basis for our series, How We Watch What We Watch.


Interview Highlights

On mobility as a fundamental change in TV viewing

"This phenomenon — what I call 'on demand attitude' — where I feel like consumers, increasingly, are used to having media at their beck and call. You know, when you can carry a smartphone on your hip that can access Netflix, can access YouTube, can access all these video services — has movies, you know, saved on its own memory — then you get used to having media travel with you and find you wherever you are."

On viewers' satisfaction

"I think people's expectations rise with the technology that's available to them. So while a lot of people, I think, are aware of all the things that are available to them, there's still some frustration, you know. You're still paying a fair amount for cable. It still takes a little while for movies to make it from the theater to the cable box or to Netflix. Netflix doesn't have the most well-rounded selection of movies and TV shows that you might want, and selections kind of drop in and drop out depending on what kind of agreements they have with these ... program providers.

"So there's a lot of frustration that people still have with the system even though they have way more material available to them now than they had even five years ago."

On the ideal type of viewing experience

"One of the things that I'm very interested in is this idea of marrying what happens on the second screen with what happens on the original screen. I was watching a Blu-Ray of The Avengers and one of the features is that you can sync up your smartphone to the Blu-Ray so that as the movie plays, content comes up on your second screen that's additional information. You can see information on where they filmed something or why they wrote something a certain way. It's sort of a way of having those director's cuts, you know, where the director talks about what they've done in the movie, but except you have it on your smartphone."

"And I predict that that's going to happen a lot more and it's going to happen a lot more with live events. And you'll be able to see additional information, which will add to the experience that you're already having watching that main screen. Because the main idea is to drive you to that place where the TV outlets make the most money on you, and right now it's still those traditional TV channels."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This week, we're talking about How We Watch What We Watch. While lounging on the couch and gazing at that flat-screen TV is still popular, smaller screens - phones, tables and video game devices - are edging their way into our lives. To sort through this mass of options, let's step into the living room of Eric Deggans. He's the TV and media critic for the Tampa Bay Times, also our regular on MORNING EDITION. And he spoke to our David Greene about how he watches what he watches.

ERIC DEGGANS: It's a jungle, man. It's crazy.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: It's a jungle of technology.

DEGGANS: That's right. It's crazy. So what I have is I have a fairly good size television, about 46 inches. You can get a really high-quality picture. I have a Blu-ray disc player that also can wirelessly access different video sources. So I can get Amazon on Demand or Netflix through that. I have Apple TV hooked up, and I use that to access media that's on my iMac computer, and also to access Netflix and Hulu Plus and some of these online video services - YouTube, I can put on the TV through that. And then I also have a cable box that has a digital video recorder in it, and I have that programmed to record a lot of stuff, things that I might want to examine later when I'm writing.

GREENE: I guess, though, the fundamental thing that's changed is that you don't necessarily have to be in a place like the living room with a big TV, where families used to share this experience together, that all these new devices and technology allows you to take the viewing experience and go anywhere you want, really.

DEGGANS: Yes, most definitely. I wrote about this phenomenon, what I called on-demand attitude, where I feel like consumers increasingly are used to having media at their beck and call. You know, when you can carry a smartphone on your hip that can access Netflix, can access YouTube, can access all these video services, has movies, you know, saved on its own memory, then you get used to having media travel with you and find you wherever you are.

GREENE: Are people who want that satisfied? I mean, are the providers actually, you know, meeting these demands you write about?

DEGGANS: I think people's expectations rise with the technology that's available to them. So while a lot of people, I think, are aware of all the things that are available to them, there's still some frustration. You know, you're still paying a fair amount for cable. It still takes a little while for movies to make it from the theater to the cable box or to Netflix. Netflix doesn't have the most well-rounded selection of movies and TV shows that you might want, and selections kind of drop in and drop out, depending on what kind of agreements they have with these program providers. So there's a lot of frustrations that people still have with the system, even though they have way more material available to them now than they had even five years ago.

GREENE: You get to see it all. If you were to pick one program, one type of screen, tell us what the ideal kind of viewing experience would be if you could create it for tonight.

DEGGANS: Well, one of the things that I'm very interested in is this idea of marrying what happens on the second screen with what happens on the original screen. I was watching a Blu-ray of "The Avengers," and one of the features is that you can synch up your smartphone to the Blu-ray so that as the movie plays, content comes up on your second screen that's additional information. You can see information on where they film something or why they wrote something a certain way. It's sort of a way of having those director's cuts, you know, where the director talks about what they done in the movie, except you have it on your smartphone.

And I predict that that's going to happen a lot more, and it's going to happen a lot more with live events. And you'll be able to see additional information that will add to the experience that you're already having watching that main screen, because the main idea is to drive you to that place where the TV outlets make the most money on you, and right now it's still those traditional TV channels.

GREENE: Eric, happy viewing. It's always good to talk to you. Thanks so much.

DEGGANS: All right. I'll go back to the Starship Enterprise now.

GREENE: You go, get back there. Eric Deggans is the TV and media critic for the Tampa Bay Times, and he joined us from St. Petersburg, Florida. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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