What’s the opportunity cost of watching TV? What alternative benefits are lost when one activity is chosen over another?
How do you value an opportunity lost when talking advantage of another?
We buy a home, we buy a TV, we licence a TV, we subscribe to satellite, broadband and streaming services and we pay for the power to enjoy it all. These actions all involve easily quantifiable costs.
But why do we do this? Some say it’s to unwind. Others use education as a justification. Some even argue that it’s sociable to sit with others in front of a TV.
Karl Marx reckoned that religion ‘is the opium of the people’ but never quite finished his thoughts.
Millennia before that, Juvenal documented the idea of diversions, such as food and entertainment, giving rise to the phrase ‘bread and circuses’. The Romans famously liked their recreations with lions and gladiators.
Appeasement. Displacement. Are these what TV is about? It’s not about selling product at the moment, that business model has changed to streaming services free of advertising (for now).
Edward R. Murrow opined in 1957 that ‘we have come perilously close to discovering the real opiate of the people.’ His use of perilously might suggest he wasn’t a fan of TV or perhaps opiates.
I use TV for breakfast news, some sports and lots of drama. There’s nothing quite like a TV news summary to cause me to read the newspaper and listen to the radio for more information and informed opinions. Isn’t it interesting that TV stations rarely risk editorial positions? Some say that’s to maintain a balance, others suggest it has more to do with advertising revenues.
Sports are ideal for TV. And TV is more than ideal for sports wages. Perhaps that’s what TV is really for, taxing us all to pay elite sportspeople egregious quantities of money. TV is now killing other sports that used to raise money by selling booze and fags that once killed the viewers.
Drama used to be on the stage, in the cinema but the need for streaming content to satisfy 8 billion people has recreated the whole concept. Momentum is what drives drama and there’s an increasing tendency to take a good idea and stretch it to a dozen TV episodes. The scripted pace must slow and we become stressed watching it. That said, there are probably more good dramas to watch today than in the previous four decades combined. Fantastic.
And our new modes of television consumption have become detached from the clock. Internet connected screens, set top boxes, desktops, laptops, phones, tablets and gaming screens at home, on the train, on the back of car seats, on your gym bicycle – near ubiquity. Millions may watch but not simultaneously, not at the same scheduled hours, day by day, week by week. Even the terrestrial channels launch entire series on the same day for online viewing.
Perhaps the pandemic has briefly altered the reinvention of TV. How do audience approval and audience acceptance differ? Does it matter?
So what’s the problem? What else could you have been doing that might have been creative or perhaps advanced yourself when instead, you chose to sit for twenty hours in front of a new box set?