For as long as watching TV has been a thing, saying that’s what you were going to do pretty much meant the same idea. You sat in a chair and stared at a box receiving video from an antenna or through cable. Programming was organized by channels, each something of a brand with its own style and types of features where advertisers could take advantage of a diverse audience.
With the internet becoming a faster and faster place to be, video streaming services seem to have gained an unshakeable foothold with the younger generation. Most people under 35 report that the bulk of their screen time for shows and movies come from places like Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube.
In the case of Youtube particularly, it’s game-changing because anyone can upload. Any person with access to a camera and an internet connection can upload content, and if it’s interesting enough, can gain a significant following.
It struck me the other day while watching a PewDiePie video, where people were joking in the comments about his army of 9 year old followers, just how much this has changed what we consume. When I was growing up it was Sesame Street and Power Rangers. I was heading into the teenage years as Barney became big.
And now, kids are less inclined to turn on the TV than to head to Youtube on a tablet and watch their favorite personalities. It’s one thing to tune in as an adult and think that the bulk of the user base are other adults like you watching videos. But to think that this is also how kids entertain themselves and learn about things happening in the world around them is pretty fascinating.
(Although that does open up some challenges for parents knowing what their kids are watching when it’s not as easy as sitting them in front of a TV on a channel they trust.)
So often we see words in a title or label, and probably don’t give much thought to it. With Youtube, it calling each user’s page a channel is just such a thing. Channel seems pretty interchangeable with platform or page, but contemplating it the day this all starting swirling around in my mind made it clear that the name is apt.
If we think of a Youtube channel like a TV channel it makes sense. For larger channels especially that have multiple video series organized by section, it greatly resembles a channel with multiple TV shows. Except in this case, they’re TV shows that can be about anything without the approval of network bigwigs. What that fact does for possibilities is pretty huge.
It’s a similar concept to what we see on some of the Netflix originals that have come out, such as Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, and particularly House of Cards. These are shows that on top of being very successful were also a pretty different flavor of show from what most cable networks were offering. In the case of House of Cards, I recall feeling like I was watching an HBO program both in terms of writing and production quality.
But Netflix has shown it’s more willing to hear an idea and tell producers to run with it than traditional TV networks, which in turn has created programming with more to say. This is a refreshing contrast to the latest Law and Order spinoff/derivative that seem to dominate cable. Safe, predictable programming.
It seems like what we’re seeing is a swing toward authenticty. Particularly on social channels, “for realness” is a sought after quality more than ever before. Not surprising with the ubiquity of clickbait articles, exaggerative news headlines, and repeated information. It’s stuffy, and seems about time we prioritize listening to someone simply being a human being rather than a stage persona complete with professional makeup and lighting.