What Makes an Event TV-Worthy or Web-Acceptable?
Decades ago, somebody buying a new album would have to decide: Is this good enough to get on CD, or will I not feel like I'm missing anything if I only get it on tape. Eventually, music fans could replace "on tape" with "as a digital download."
Lately, viewers as well as listeners have had to face their own version of this: When some significant event, game or program airs, do you watch it on TV or on the Web?
I'm not talking about incidental snippets of video or everyday shows, but the sort of things labeled "appointment viewing" -- what you don't want to wait to watch, lest friends spoil it for you by telling you all about it.
Two recent examples of that: Olympic competitions and the headline speeches at the Democratic and Republican political conventions. Both can be watched online or over the air at the same time, which isn't always the case with popular programming.
By many measures, Web video can't hope to compare with TV. High-definition coverage is common on the tube (as an aside, "on the tube" seems likely to become one of those functionally obsolete expressions that refuses to die, like the idea of "dialing" a phone number) but rare on the Web and impractical for many people of limited bandwidth. Good old television also provides far better audio than most computer feeds. And you don't have to fuss with installing any new video plug-ins, either.
And yet... the Web has far more room to carry what you want to watch than any channel. You can watch on any computer anywhere with an Internet connection, not just on whatever TV is connected to an antenna or cable or satellite box. (One of the first political speeches I viewed online instead of on TV was a State of the Union speech that, owing to my getting a late start on cooking dinner and my then-home's kitchen being on the wrong side of a wall from the TV, I had to watch on my laptop.) And if somebody else has monopolized the TV for other purposes, you may not have any alternative but to watch online.
So: During the Olympics, were there any events you only wanted to watch on TV? Or did you make the decision based on what screen was in front of you at the time? What about the conventions: Will you gather in front of the TV for Barack Obama and/or John McCain's acceptance speeches, or will the nearest laptop suffice?
August 26, 2008; 10:36 AM ET
Categories: Digital culture , The Web , Video
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