At present, there are 1.8 billion households in the world, of which 1.4 billion are equipped with televisions. Many, if not most, people watch and listen to TV approximately three hours a day. In many cases, the TV is the backdrop for general background noise. For many, it is now part of the domestic furniture.

Decline in North America

If during the 1960s 75% of the North American population watched traditional television shows, in 2007 the percentage was only 18% (diagram of Time magazine). Now almost a decade later, traditional network television is on life support, replaced by personalized viewing, HBO, Netflix, etc.:

Smart TVs

Today the meaning of the word television does not correspond well to its original definition : a program broadcast by radio waves watched in a passive manner by a large audience ; broadcasting was a « big show to big audiences for big amounts of advertising money ».

Today, we have transitioned into a universe based on continuous dissemination of disorderly information (based on personal viewing preferences and schedules) via TV-screen images and on the screens of computers and mobile devices (TV 2.0).

Until 1979, the viewer received a basic service – twelve analog channels in black-and-white. Today, the domestic appliance has been transformed into a home theatre with a large flat screen connected to a cable or a satellite dish. It is powered by both traditional broadcast channels, a type of narrowcast specialty channels, recorded video-on-demand system or DVD playback, access to Netflix or HBO, new continuous channels, PointCast cameras, smartphones. etc. Very often, the TV screen is accompanied by a second screen that allows the viewer to synchronize experiences online. This requires a greater degree of attention from the viewer (tweeting while watching a tv show, for example) such that American experts often speak about an Attention Economy (See no 9).

For the middle classes in emerging countries, the television image has become the model to imitate, hence the current globalization of American culture via television shows broadcast around the globe (their soft power). This globalization of “cultural coding” has become more important than the impacts of imported goods and foreign travel.

Capitalism has imposed its individualistic model of representation via the images viewed by the wealthier classes around the world. Such images ultimately define the dominant cultural models followed in these societies, societies which believe that this is an accurate portrayal of the right or best way to live.

With this understanding, it’s easy to realize why the influence of American Soft Power is so very important.

The screen of this TV reality (news), fiction (filmed dreams) and entertainment (sports and reality shows). The true, the false and fun,
François Jost.

Societal benchmarks

1963 Assassination of John F. Kennedy : the advent of continuous information.
1968 The appalling images of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War, broadcast live into all US homes, change the perception of this war.
1969 Neil Armstrong landed on the moon ; first global high mass of media.
1989 Information channels are now continuous.
2001 Terrorist attacks in New York : the first international television images taken from the internet.
2001 Appearance of the information banner displayed continuously at the bottom of the screen.
2012 The parachutist Felix Baumgertner plummeting in space : first television images taken from the Internet via space

References to the box-of-images:

1884 Image analysis by lines: the Nipkow disk.
1892 CRT K. F. Brauss.
1907 Belinograph Edouard Belin.
1937 The first report live on BBC
1950 The first golden age : the pioneers.
1953 The first film in CinemaScope (The Robe).
1962 Telecommunications satellite Telstar I then Intelsat.
1968 The TiVo DVR.
1970 The domestic supply : 8 channels.
1972 The HBO pay channel.
1980 The second golden age: the Quality TV (Twin Peaks, etc.)
Domestic offers 35 channels.
1985 Video clubs.
1990 Enlargement of bandwidth = html streaming ;
to a movie playback continues on the Internet.
1995 DVD and Blu-Ray (The customer purchases rather than leases).
The 1990 home theatre I.
2000 The third golden age : the catalogs to Netflix ;
streaming movies on the Internet and syndication.
The home offers 70 channels.
2000 Television series (TV Drama) : Six Feet Under.
The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire Games of Thrones, etc.
2000 The RSS and Podcast; subscription content on the web.
2005 Home Theatre II.
2007 Smartphones and tablets (Android, iPod and iPad, Kindle).
2008 Streaming via YouTube.
2012 Large LCD flat screens (Smart TV).
2015 A cyber attack that stops the spread of a network (TV5- World hacked by the Islamic State)

Later on, after 2020 (?), there may be disastrous consequences emerging that we are only just beginning to observe :


The media convergence of Internet 2 is responsible for significant hybridization, as follows :

  • much public content is now sent to phones and smart tablets via mobile services ;
  • dematerialization of film archives by scanning/digitization, therefore a loss of video clubs and possibly a decline in audience of cinemas ;
  • a great battle begins between television and the Internet. Television may win this battle on the global scale with respect to the use and quantity of images-on-screens, but the Internet prevails with respect to an advertising base ;
  • the emergence of a second screen (the computer placed next to the TV for multitasking) ;
  • encouragement of viewers to tweet in real-time during television shows, and younger generations in the television audience become accustomed to multitasking (vlog). Etc.
  • The rise of special effects :

(Avatar, James Cameron, 2009)

Mass media infotainment

During the 60s, serious studies predicted that the growing flood of images would do wonders in the field of education or democracy; Now, increasingly it seems more like television-based Prozac.

In fact, the TV screen fits between the viewer and the world, mediating our experience of reality. The flood of images is often a result of Web series, especially reality shows that offer an emotional connection between human beings and society. While television could have become a window to the world, in effect it has become a camera lens onto the world.

The news is stubborn drivel under the shimmering appearance of a continuous renewal,
Alain Finkielkraut.

TV 2.0 (After 2020?)

In the future, the big TV screen will probably refocus its flood of images in the following ways :

  • increasingly we will see what is happening in real time (thanks to the significant personal contribution of many snapparazis). This will become a warning system, concentrating attention on what you need to know today in the news.
  • the creation of personal dreams, thanks to a rapidly-growing quantity of special effects. This includes major sporting events such as soccer, hockey or the Olympics.
  • access to on-demand images ; the copy content that allows users to build personalized schedules and access personal dreams whenever the mood strikes.

Technically, hybridization will continue with the arrival of 3D television 4K (ultra HD), and through the use of the gigantic memory space of the cloud, etc. (chapter 3, no 14).

In 2000, Napster shook up the media industry by centralizing the downloading of movies and music online, but the big bosses of that era did not understand the impact.

Economically, the benefits will be significant : in the USA people already spend a total of 4 h 44 m per day watching television, which represents a significant amount of revenues that change the basis of advertising.

This hybridization means new uses that will lead to a greater diversity of supply, and thus a growth in costs for the individual user (Triple Play = TV + mobile + computer).