Friday, February 09, 2007

Embedded Multi-tasking Television Programming

I wrapped up a bit of late-night work and clicked on the television. There's an ad for the show "Heroes." Like the short-lived "crossover event," if you watch the show that comes before "Heroes "- "Deal or No Deal" - you'll get to see a new hero to be introduced on the "Heroes" program. That way you end up watching two of their programs. Hey!

Now, consider: we tend to flip through channels anyway, right? Sometimes I'll flip for a couple of hours and never see an entire show, not even half of one. More like five-minute spurts of programming in between commercials. Network executives are apparently fighting back by trying to make us maintain a storyline and become faithful to a show or two. When one returns to the US after being abroad for a while, it's startling how staccato the editing cuts are on American TV shows. This is part of the attempt to attract, I suppose. Anyway, if I'm already hooked on "Heroes," I just might end up watching "Deal or No Deal" so that I can have a 15-minute head start on the world of fairweather "Heroes" fans. Ha!

It occurs to me that the network isn't going far enough with this "embedded previews" idea. It's already done with placement advertising. I say push it even farther. If people watch TV in five- or ten-minute spurts, and network executives are trying to draw in more loyal audiences, why not embed entire shows within each other? Show five minutes of "Heroes," arrive at a cliffhanger moment, then cut to "Deal or No Deal" for five minutes. Then cut back to "Heroes" to dribble out a little more of the excitement. Repeat.

In fact, why not do several shows at a time, thus reflecting actual TV viewing habits? Five or six or eight shows at a time. Forget plot development - just do what's needed to arrive at the cliffhanger, then cut to the game show, then cut to the reality show, then cut to the CSI show, then cut to the doctor show, then cut to the housewives show, then show a commercial, then repeat. Mix up the order so that viewers can't get up to go to the bathroom or make popcorn.

As our feedloop American brains adapt to increasing pace and increasing "TV multi-tasking," the potential for accelerating programming cuts becomes endless. In 20 years time, we could be watching the programming of thousands of shows at one viewing, all chopped together in .25-second flashes like subliminal advertising. And we wouldn't be able to get up at all - we would finally be loyal to TV.

1 comment:

Anglachel said...

Or you can just not watch television. I haven't owned a TV since 1989. The few times a year when I have the misfortune to be in the same room as a TV, my original decision to ditch the boob tube is reinforced. Anything worth watching can be downloaded or is on DVD.