I had an interesting time watching Marvel’s Agent Carter the other night, for reasons having nothing to do with the plot of the show. My interest came from watching my 17-year-old’s reaction to the commercial breaks on network television. He really gets torqued when the story gets interrupted at the end of every scene.
My son’s attitude is a product of the video-on-demand era of entertainment. We had watched Agent Carter as a family when it came out on Blu-Ray, and enjoyed it immensely. Naturally, we didn’t want to wait for the next Blu-Ray, so we now make sure we are in front of the TV on Tuesdays. That was the first time our son had ever rearranged his schedule for network TV, so that was a bit odd for him. He does not understand how spoiled he is by video on demand.
He was actually OK during the first commercial break, speculating with my wife on what was going to happen next. The next break came right after a mini-cliff-hanger, for want of a better word. His response: “Already?” He shook his head at the commercials themselves, impatient for the story to continue. The next break was similar: “Again?” He then pointed out that if we were watching Amazon Prime, the entire episode would be over with at this point.
The next break had him slapping his hand on the chair arm with a “What the hell!?!” And the last break was punctuated with “This is really irritating my soul.” (A rather trite phrase in vogue with teens.) He asked us how we ever managed to watch anything at all on TV with all these interruptions.
I used to work at a local ABC affiliate, so I pointed out that the commercials allowed the network to pay for the programs they do air. I also pointed out that he didn’t seem to mind the commercials during sports events. He agreed with my observation, and made one of his own: the sports commercial breaks occurred during timeouts, so he wasn’t missing anything important. (Getting to use the bathroom during those breaks was an added bonus.) What it came down to was that he hated having his story interrupted.
Having grown up with commercial TV, I accepted it for what it was. We may be seeing the end of commercial episodic television sooner than most folks realize, as video on demand gives the audience uninterrupted content. I suspect that network television will evolve its programming to those events best suited for live viewing: news and sports. A consolidation of channels would have to take place, for I doubt that there will be much call for 24 hour local news (too expensive) or, taking sports TV to the extreme, Joe’s Bar & Grille Table Tennis Championship (who freaking cares?). Channel ownership has been consolidating for some time, and I suspect that channels will begin to disappear, one at a time.
The question is, how long will it take?