The Destruction of Television

WVFF Guest Blogger
Hank Green

There seem to be two camps on this debate. One half says that the internet is going to kill television, the other says that the internet is going to make television much better and even more profitable. It seems that we’ve learned nothing from centuries of media outlets becoming less relevant.

Radio didn’t kill the stage, television didn’t kill radio, and the internet didn’t kill newspapers. Old media doesn’t die, it just become less relevant. I learned that from Jon Webber, owner of and one of my favorite professors, before I even knew what YouTube was.

It’s amazing how well the TV industry has ignored the lessons of music and newspapers. The simple fact is, everyone now has access to the equipment and distribution channels that were so unattainable just five years ago.

What’s really going to hurt television is the creation of a long-tail in video content. People will be able to watch whatever they want whenever they want and just as newspapers found out, people will produce that long-tail content without training, without limits, and without compensation. The crazy thing is, people will watch.

The result, more videos will be watched than ever before, but less money will be made than ever before. People will tolerate fewer advertisements, content creators will build huge empires in the minds of their audiences while working within revenue streams that wouldn’t pay the catering budget of a TV show.

Television revenues are going to shrink massively, however, they will remain much larger than anything the internet has to offer. Yet, in the minds of consumers, the war will appear to been won by the internet and television will have been destroyed. We will re-define our relationships with video content, yes, but, television won’t disappear, it will just become less relevant.


Find more of Hank’s wisdom on the web @

14 Replies to “The Destruction of Television”

  1. The internet is becoming television. That is not to say that television will die, but morph, “change or die”. The media companies had better understand that and deal with it accordingly. The ones that get that will survive, the ones that don’t will go the way of vaudeville.

    The days of non-interactive sitting like a lump in front of a glowing tube are done. The modern audience wants to take part in the entertainment. They want to express their opinions rather than be lectured. They want to argue and question rather than absorb. They want to kibitz and poke fun and yes to hate or despise when they can.

    Since the technology is here to allow the masses to take part in mass-media, television must and will accommodate the townhall aspect of entertainment and information.

    (steps off of his soapbox)

  2. I’m inclined to argue that point, though. There will never not be people who simply want to make a story, make a point, do a perfect setup with a perfect punchline (or work towards the ability of that) – something to absorb/art… and there will never stop being people who appreciate it.

  3. @1 I don’t really agree that the days of non-interactive video are done. Do you really think Hollywood is going to go out of business anytime soon? I’m pretty sure there will always be a demand for video designed for passive viewing.

  4. Of course there will be a place for non-interactive viewing, it won’t be mandatory, (let’s hope not) but my point is that that will be an option. Whether it’s to order an item from a commercial or to vote on how stupid a particular politician or comedian is the Internet will give the interactivity and the whole concept will revolve around choice to interact or not.

    Static programming is done. You already see that with the increased use of DVRS.

    Those who don’t supply that choice won’t last.

    in my humble opinion of course. 😉

  5. Honestly, I disagree completely. Sure, online video is coming to a TV near you, but the experience of watching television PASSIVELY isn’t going anywhere. People just love their stories…

    Online video is all about engagement. I think TV will incorporate metric measurement tools and engagement features of online video, but that will be an optional thing for viewers.

    Also, don’t ever underestimate those who control the pipes. Several YouTube Web Celebs have created and are successfully running profitable channels – but organically finding a large audience will become trickier and harder. Also, YouTube has changed their messaging rules so that programs like TubeBlaster Pro used to spam the shit out people to gain subscribers aren’t nearly as effective anymore (seriously – so many top YouTubers did this).

    Online videos can organically find an audience, but as google continues to bring their “Adwords” philosophy to YouTube and beyond, “organically” will still happen – but right next to Google’s “payola-auction” for programming.

    What will change is how we pay for our TV. Will there ever be a subscription for a “show” instead of “channel”? Will we be able to buy a season of “Dexter” instead of subscribing to “Showtime”? What if Lucas had a Star Wars TV movie event that you had to buy in advance? What if FX dropped Sons Of Anarchy but DirecTV offered a whole season for $75 in advance? I know I’d pay for that.

  6. @7 Nut, xtube’s been giving me some serious weird shit lately. (Like it was hacked and acting like a virus was downloading on my computer) You’ve been having the same problem?

    I’m just sayin’….

  7. Hard core people still have cable, but after the horrible digital switch I don’t know anyone, without cable, who uses their TV anymore. Online is where it’s at.

  8. Interesting discussion and I learned a new term: long-tail. Thanks for that!

    I dropped my satellite TV subscription a year and a half ago (and live out of range of broadcast signals). I never listen to the radio and I don’t purchase newspapers (but I do buy books fairly frequently). Pretty much all my media needs are satisfied through the internet (and that’s how I purchase books). I agree that the internet will never completely replace radio, newspapers, or TV, but as you point out it has had one heck of an impact on them!

  9. Newspapers are pushing their content online now and several outfits have stopped publishing print editions altogether like this

    Same goes for music. CD’s are making ways to digital downloads via stores like ITunes.

    So for TV, there will always be a place for high production value quality content, but insteadof coming through your standard television set at a pre-set time, it is switching to being delivered via the net.

    People will stay pay for the production value and the convenience of TV shows, they just want to view it when and where they want to.

  10. Too much television can ruin relationships. Since television was created, it has been a part of many communities, friendships, and families. First of all, television means to access a lot of information. However, it consumes a lot of time, which could be spent with your relatives. In the past, family meetings were more common, eating with friends was something that made friendships more important. Nowadays, things are different. Television has an influence on people, providing more distractions and bias about how we see others in life. In summary, television can be a good device for a short period of time, but it does not replace a personal relationships.

Comments are closed.