Television used to disappear. Unless you had a VHS tape and a second VCR at the ready, there was no way to capture whatever was being screened. You had to wait for the episode to be shown again or wait until you could get your hands on a physical copy. In the past two decades, that process, that relationship between viewer and content has changed dramatically.
Technology gave rise to DVR, TiVo, Netflix. Suddenly, you could record the second season of Friends to watch later. Then you could stream the entire series directly from your TV. A small flood of applications, plugins, set-top boxes, and devices facilitated the shift away from traditional broadcasting and brought even the most reluctant viewer into this new digital age of television.
With a larger and larger audience collecting in the digital space, those same streaming services that brought TV online began creating content specifically for the internet. Hulu Originals, Netflix Originals, YouTube Red, and Amazon Video were all formed with the purpose of providing video content that could all be watched virtually anywhere and at any time. Television without the TV. There was no need to tune-in, no reason to ever miss an episode again. Entire seasons could be released at once and you could watch them simultaneously or a month later.
Since you no longer needed a primetime slot on a major network to garner an audience, there was nothing preventing creators from vying for absolutely everyone’s attention. Everyone with access to a screen would see your video. Television was in everyone’s pocket at all times. Or on their laptop, tablet, or even their good ol’ fashion tv.
So the question becomes with a dozen ways to tune-in, what to watch? Well, you could take 2 days 11 hours and binge watch all of Game of Thrones. Or you could take 27 minutes and catch a single High Maintenance? But you’re also a whole season behind on OITNB… The sheer possibility is overwhelming. We’re in the midst of a television renaissance, a new hit show is always premiering and you’re constantly catching up. Have you seen The Handmaiden’s Tale yet? Did you ever even get around to Silicon Valley?
Sometimes what you need is not twelve hours of television. You just need to tune-out for a minute and watch something. Perhaps mindlessly or just for a laugh. A light comedy, a nature documentary about an unlikely animal friendship, one of those how-it’s-made specials. You don’t have an hour or you don’t want to spend that long watching something. You just need a quick something while you’re waiting for your train, before you have to figure out what you’re doing for dinner, as you’re getting ready for bed.
This busy audience is perhaps who Time Warner was thinking of when they signed a $100 million deal with Snapchat. They then tasked the app, known for ephemeral, impermanent video, with creating almost a dozen original shows, each lasting only a few minutes.
Short form series, like Gayle or Broad City, have proven that you don’t need a full hour to convince an audience to come back next week. It’s the newest frontier in video making and may be another reason behind Time Warner’s decision to adapt some of it’s content to this medium. The company will pull from the HBO and Turner TV networks as well as the Warner Brothers studio to fill the channel. According to Nick Bell, vice president of content for Snapchat, the deal will mean branching “out into new genres, including scripted dramas, comedies, daily news shows, documentaries and beyond.”
With $100 million to fund its once flailing efforts, will Snapchat be able to change the viewing experience as streaming had done? Or will the advent of a scripted drama change the way in which the platform delivers content? Thankfully for Snapchat, we’ll just to tune-in to find out.
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