It’s TV, Jim, but not as we know it… Or is it?

A month is a long time in TV these days.

It really was only February that Netflix launched in the UK with a bang by dumping the entire 13-part series of House of Cards on to its website all at once.

Back then, Bafta Award-winning producer and director Peter Kosminsky told The Guardian he thought traditional broadcasters ought to be ‘shitting it’ about the arrival of Netflix in Britain.

It was, he said, the end of days for outdated old television, as he heralded the dawn of the age of ‘binge viewer’ settling down to watch entire series from beginning to end in one sitting.

Since Netflix launched in the UK, BBC3 unveiled its first iPlayer-only drama strand, Amazon announced it would produce its first online TV show, Sky started putting sport on its online NowTV service and YouTube smacked through 1bn users.

Mr K’s on the button then, it’s the end of TV as we know it… Right?

Ummmm… No.

The fact is, we’ve been setting our own TV schedules for decades.

It has just taken broadcasters until now to catch up.

Since the days of the now virtually extinct video recorder, TV audiences have been setting – to a greater or lesser extent – their own schedules, recording entire series to watch at their leisure, revelling in the joy of fast-forwarding through the ad breaks.

Then, we started saving programmes on our digital video recorders and making use of the 30-second skip button to fly through those annoying adverts.

Thanks to internet streaming and on-demand services, we can now watch whole seasons of any particular programme when it suits.

Hell, we can even watch classic shows like M*A*S*H (with or without the terrible laugh track) when the mood takes us.

Some commentators worry about the effect of this on our social interactions, arguing that the death of the ‘did you see…?’ question means we will lose common conversational currency during those watercooler moments in the office.

Dread things, they warn, will happen. Maybe we’ll all collapse in on ourselves and society will fall into a supermassive black hole of silent and sullen introspection.

Which just goes to prove that social commentators can be as far behind the times as broadcasting legends like Peter Kosminsky.

Watercooler conversations rarely involve ‘did you see…?’ questions these days (other than after major national or international events).

We still talk about the telly, but we now recommend what we’ve been watching online as opposed to on BBC2. It’s less ‘did you see…?’, more ‘have you seen…?’.

It’s still the telly, chaps, just not as we’ve known it.

By James Harrington

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