The Golden Age of Television

The original ‘Golden Age of Television’ in the US began in 1947 and lasted until 1960. The first electronic television set was successfully demonstrated in San Francisco on September 7th, 1927. Philo Taylor Farnsworth, a 21-year-old inventor, designed it. Francisco’s invention scanned images with a beam of electrons; it is the direct ancestor of the modern television. Between the years of 1927 and 1947 television was extremely primitive, and the number of televisions owned in the US could be counted in the thousands. Full-scale commercial television broadcasting began in the US in 1947, the start of the golden age. By 1949 Americans who lived within the range of a growing number of television stations could watch commercialized television, including newscasts, comedies, variety shows, and dramas. The number of TV sets rose from 6,000 in 1946 to over 12 million by 1951. This explosion marked the beginning of modern television and captivated Americans unlike any other device before. No other invention entered American households faster than the black and white TV. By 1955 half of all US homes had one.

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The TV revolution was a new and exciting time in America. Although viewers were limited by the quality of images, the number of channels, and the programming schedule, the birth of TV came about because it gave viewers access to something that they never had before. They were given a better medium to connect with the world, a more engaging portal into entertainment, news, politics, and sports.

The advancements of the 21st century, mainly the technology boom, has created a new golden age of television. The modern Golden Age of Television is considered to have begun in the early 2000s and is alive and well today. The large number of critically acclaimed television program highlights the second coming of the golden age of television. This golden age, however, is characterized by convenience and connection, rather than the birth of commercial success.

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Streaming Services Give Unprecedented Convenience

Today’s world of entertainment is dominated by convenience. Streaming services like Netflix, HBO, Amazon and Hulu give users unprecedented access to content. This convenience has dictated the way that Americans watch TV. With the improvements to streaming, binge watching has become a regular habit for TV fans. According to a study from Deloitte, 70% of US consumers binge watch TV, with an average of five episodes per sitting. Additionally, the study said that nearly half of Americans subscribe to streaming media services. The study also notes that Milennials aged 14 to 25 value their streaming video subscriptions more than paid TV subscriptions.

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Superior Devices Allow a Seamless Viewing Experience

The popularity of streaming services wouldn’t have been possible without advancement in the devices that allow us to access these services. The ability to watch TV anytime and on any device gives viewers a seamless connection to their favorite shows in a more convenient way than ever before. Apple TV, Smart TV’s, Roku, Gaming Consoles, Amazon Fire Stick, and countless others devices allow users to access Netflix, Hulu, and HBO effortlessly. The streaming services have also done an amazing job of allowing viewers to transition their viewing experience from one device to another, effortlessly. Netflix allows you to watch half of a show on your TV and finish the show right where you left off on your iPad. The Netflix interface is easy to navigate and is remarkably consistent on every device, making watching TV effortless and addictive.

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Social Media Provides a Platform for Connection  

Just as the original Golden Age of Television was centered on a more engaging connection to the world, so is the modern Golden Age. Social Media’s viral nature is epitomized by TV fandom. Twitter provides a platform to connect and engage with other fans. Shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and House of Cards have developed cult like followings. Twitter is littered with memes, fan pages, and episode recaps. Most new episodes of hit shows are live tweeted with updates and commentary. This viral nature encourages fans to watch each episode live, or risk the chance of stumbling upon a spoiler. Hit shows also seem to force themselves on non-watchers. Even if you don’t watch Game of Thrones chances are you know some of the characters and understand the basic storyline. The show is unavoidable. It is also a great place to gather TV show recommendations. In order to get hooked on a new show a decade ago you would have to hear about it from someone or catch it on TV by accident. Today, social networks inform you about everything worth watching.

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Social networks also help generate unavoidable FOMO (fear of missing out). Constant Twitter and Facebook chatter can be tremendously influential. It can even push on-the-fence viewers over the edge simply by encouraging them to join the conversation. Social networks help us feel like we are apart of something greater than ourselves. They help facilitate a never-ending conversation. The fear of missing something exciting, a viral moment, helps fuel the addictive nature of these platforms. This culture has pushed TV back into the center of American society. Convenience, a seamless viewing experience, and a viral conversation have created the modern Golden Age of Television.

9 comments

  1. Great post! I love TV, so I’m eternally grateful for all of the streaming options that allow us to now watch virtually anything we want at any time of the day, as well as the great original content by such platforms. The convenience factor is definitely amazing – I remember actually waiting for episodes to come out every week of my favorite shows. Now that concept seems archaic. I totally agree with your point about FOMO – it’s hard not to want to watch Game of Thrones when there’s an endless barrage of discussions and references floating around Twitter and Facebook that you don’t understand because you’re not a viewer. While the social sharing aspect of TV these days is definitely fun, I sometimes wonder if it detracts from these shows. There’s almost an overexposure of information that may turn some people off because nothing is a surprise anymore – at some point or another you’ve seen it in a meme, and the suspense is gone.

  2. finkbecca · ·

    My presentation in the 4:30 class was on Digital Business & Binge Watching (http://bit.ly/2erIh3f), so I really enjoyed reading your post. It’s definitely interesting to see how much TV has changed, especially how accessible it is now. Most people have a device on them at all times that they can pull video up on-that’s wild! TV shows are also all over social media, so you really can’t seem to escape it in the digital world. Great post!

  3. rohansuwarna · ·

    Great blog post! I really found the statistics about binge watching really interesting. Since the 1950s we have captivated by TV shows. Due to the rise of HBO, Netflix, and Hulu, we can easily ask all the TV shows we love so much. I think without those streaming services there certainly would not be this much access to binge watching. Binge watching is perfect, because the episodes are short, but we become so hooked that the duration for which we watch these shows outlasts that of a movie.

  4. vicmoriartybc · ·

    While reading your post, I noticed the statistic that Milennials aged 14 to 25 value their streaming video subscriptions more than paid TV subscriptions. I actually saw this statistic in practice in my Strategic Management class, when my professor asked how many of us watch live TV on an actual television once a week, and almost no one raised their hands. One really interesting aspect of the rise of the Modern Golden Age of Television is probably that the concept of “channel-surfing” has become antiquated – now, when people are searching for something to watch, they’ll surf through Netflix. Your post did a great job highlighting the differences between the first “Golden Age” and the modern one!

  5. Very cool post regarding the state of television now. I remember how big of a deal it was when we first got TIVO in our house. The power of being able to record a show, and skip through the commercials was the best. Back then you could only record one show at a time, and couldn’t even watch live TV, as well. How times have changed for sure. This along with the rise of streaming platforms has made the millennial TV experience that much better then before. I can only imagine what the next leap will be, my best guess is that VR will play a big roll for sure.

  6. ikechukwu_28 · ·

    Great post. Fits well with my recent blog post about the transition from traditional TV to more modern streaming services. The statistics about bingo watching sticks out to me, because that is how I and most of my friends view shows that we want to watch. For example, my roommate, after hearing all of the buzz about Westworld, binged watch all of the released episodes to catch up. The rise of streaming services is definitely shaking up the industry

  7. Great post, Kevin! I couldn’t agree more with your insights on how effective, seamless and addictive streaming services have made TV. Like others have mentioned, it should be interesting to see what happens to the future of traditional cable television, and whether or not those companies can withstand and adapt to this digital disruption. I would also posit the idea that rather than being the new golden age of television, this is the golden age of tech. And maybe not even “the golden age”, per say, but rather the new norm/expectation for the accessibility and frequency of tech in day to day life. Thanks!

  8. Good post! It is absolutely true that the technological advances have reshaped the TV industry. But not only in a good way. Piracy is nowadays a huge loss for the big production companies. For example, in Europe more than half of the american TV shows and series are not streamed by any channel or webpage, this series and shows are stricly pirated. The other half, has a similar problem, weeks pass form the moment the episode is aired in the US until is aired in Spain, wile in the piracy websites the episode is there within ours form the airing. The only way to fight this is through strategies such as the ones proposed by Netflix, which releases all the episodes at the same time. This seems like the only way that you can partially fight piracy, but at the end this is creates other problems such as the ones you describe in the relations of the TV and social media. A rain of spoilers.

  9. I agree that technology has ushered in a golden age of Television, but the flip side is there are so many choices, I have difficulty settling on which show to invest in. Too many choices!

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