FlowTV is a critical forum on television and media culture published biweekly by the Department of Radio, Television, and Film at the University of Texas at Austin.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Watching Television Off-Television (Panel #6)

Participants: Jonathan Gray (Fordham University), Henry Jenkins (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Jason Mittell (Middlebury College), Will Brooker (Kingston University); participants: Joel Greenberg (GSD&M), Kevin Sandler (University of Arizona) Derek Johnson (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Daniel Chamberlain (University of Southern California),
Moderator: Susan Broyles (University of Texas at Austin)

Question: Currently, a variety of new technologies are making it possible to consume large amounts of television off-television: for example, DVD sales of television are thriving; an increasing number of viewers are downloading episodes via BitTorrent; Apple offers episodes for download to iPods; Verizon offers clips for cell phones; Amazon is premiering a new talk show hosted by Bill Maher; Netflix and On Demand models of distribution pose a rival to broadcasting; and multiple official and unofficial fan sites allow the continued proliferation and extension of the television text online. How do these technologies change the nature of scheduling and programming? How do they shape the relationship between the viewer, the screen, and the show? And what does it mean when we watch television away from the television?


Blogger goshdurnit said...

It seems like there are two uses of "overflow" (or whatever you want to call the supplementary trans-media texts the surround a core TV text): to give fans an expanded deigetic universe OR to serve as information for viewers who are trying to solve a mystery (e.g. Lost). The more I think about it, this second type is downright exploitative.

Mysteries will no longer be self-contained stories, but will be ways of stringing viewers along through various media so that they can take in as many ads along the way and the distributors can sell.

Granted, all narratives are mysteries of sorts, with information that the viewer craves gradually being meted out by the theoretical narrator, but the mystery genre seems the ripest for exploitation of this nature. If I am able to identify a new show as a mystery, I will specifically avoid it now, b/c I assume it will be part of this bait-and-switch platform-hopping ad-saturated narratives that marketing execs are drooling over.

Narratives that are not self-contained, that sprawl across media in this manner, are of no lasting value in the way that non-ad-supported pay-for-view shows and films are. They are games to be played, competitions between the wiley consumer who wants to hold on to his money and the advertiser who delicately balances new diegetic information with solicitations for the viewers' dollars.

Granted, this is a rather cynical view, but in all the excitement over this sprawling overflow, I just wanted to introduce an alternate interpretation of the rise of overflow.

2:21 PM


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