TV shows are still cultural glue for the nation. Against all doom-laden predictions from a decade ago, we are still watching lots of TV and we love to talk about it.
Thinkbox writes: "The advent of multi-screening has seen TV become even more magnetic. Many of us now share a virtual sofa with the world and having a second screen to hand enables us to give live, online reaction to TV via social media: uploading pastiches to YouTube, joining TV-related Facebook groups and airing opinions on Twitter."
Event TV is still a growth category. As Nick Burcher wrote in Paid, Owned, Earned: "TV shows that reach mass audiences are even more important, especially live-event TV like American Idol, The X Factor or sports coverage, where there is a social imperative to watch the action as it happens."
If you miss the live show, you miss the best of the chat. There are some shows that I find barely of interest without accompanying Tweets, but unmissable with Twitter. I have bonded with semi-strangers because we share an opinion of the Dowager Duchess on Downton Abbey. I have judged others because they didn’t warm to a favourite Great British Bake Off contestant.
We like talking TV, online or in real life, because TV crosses all kinds of age and social divides. It enables small talk for even the most socially inept and shy.
Is Netflix out to ruin this? Time-delayed viewing has been fine. I’ve gone back to conversations with people about Fortitude when I have caught up (thanks, Andrew D, for being there for me on this one). But as the blogger Rex Sorgatz eloquently points out, Netflix is ruining TV chat by releasing the whole series in one lump. There’s no flow any more. I can’t binge-watch – I’m too busy and, anyway, it makes me feel slightly ill. So there are shows that I have totally missed out on as far as buzz is concerned. And now it seems like there is not much point in catching up. As Sorgatz says: "If no-one can talk about House Of Cards, did it even happen?"
Sorgatz doesn’t think that releasing the whole series in one go does anything for anyone, especially TV bloggers: "It is not a good idea and people do not love it. Breaking the schedule broke how we talk about television. Television writers and recappers, in particular, are flummoxed about how to publish their writing – all at once? In groups of episodes? At all?"
Great stories are at the heart of why we love TV. The drama of a great series of Big Brother matches the drama of a Broadchurch or of Hamlet. I think the same emotion links much great TV, whether it is classical drama, a soap, a reality show or sport. We are drawn to seeing how people behave under pressure. We love it when their true characters shine through.
And we love to share it. We need those water-cooler moments to make the most of our love of telly. The Netflix business model may be distinctive, but it does nothing for bringing people together.
Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom