Digital Television and New Platforms of Interaction

CC image courtesy of Sarah Reid on Flickr

CC image courtesy of Sarah Reid on Flickr

Now, I don’t know about everyone else, but I don’t watch television shows on an actual television anymore. My television watching all comes from my computer screen. Most of the time I stream shows on Netflix, HBO GO, or other streaming sites, and occasionally I will download shows to watch (like if I have long bus ride with no internet access). There are a few reasons why I choose to watch my shows on the computer and not on the television screen: there are no commercials, so I can keep watching without interruption, and I can watch them whenever and wherever I want (provided I have Internet access). Although I would prefer the larger screen size and better quality image of a television to watch media on, the conveniences of watching on a computer usually outweighs that preference.

Digital television creates options that did not exist before the digitization of television. We now see:

“increasingly personalized experiences, the multiplicity of options, and the changing modes of address and engagement offered by digital television” (Bennett and Strange 5).

We are now offered more individualized options where what we watch is at the tips of our fingers; all it takes is a click and we can watch our

CC image courtesy of Wikipedia

CC image courtesy of Wikipedia

favorite show right then and there without having to wait for the scheduled network time to see the show we want. Streaming sites like Netflix offer up suggestions for shows (or movies) that viewers might be interested, based off other shows that have been streamed. There are a lot options that are readily available (although this is limited to what the sites have license to). Netflix doesn’t have the current seasons of shows available to watch and users typically have to wait until after the DVD release of a show’s season in order to get the show on instant streaming. On the other hand, HBO GO has the current seasons of their shows available for streaming directly after the episode airs on television for the first time.

In addressing the engagement of digital television viewers, Bennett and Strange point out:

“As often as we are promised the convenience of the television experience ‘anytime, anywhere,’ we are equally invited to participate in communities, share television moments, watch live now, come home to television, and structure our daily lives around TV” (Bennett and Strange, 5).

Digital television offers viewers a multitude of options when it comes to how and where and when we want to watch shows, but it also offers opportunity for viewers to be involved. Television on a digital platform such as a streaming site affords the audience more opportunity to get involved and share their opinions. Live streaming online acts as another way to get what we normally would get on a television; this is a convenient format for those of us who no longer own a TV or just simply don’t always have access to a TV.

Many people do still “come home to television,” but they may be watching that television show on Netflix on their computer instead of their TV (although they could watch Netflix on their TV as well). We also still plot out time in our lives that we are willing to commit to watching a TV show, although we now have more flexibility as to when we decide to do that. The fact that we can pause a show on Netflix and return to it later on at the same spot of the episode is a major factor that helps with the flexibility of our viewing.

CC image courtesy of Karl Baron on Flickr

CC image courtesy of Karl Baron on Flickr

One mode that promotes immediate sharing and participation by viewers is the second screen. Second screen refers to the use of a secondary device, such as a smartphone, a tablet, or computer, during the watching of content, such as a television show, for a more interactive viewing experience. This interaction can be between the creators of the show and the fans, such as behind the scenes content available online and viewable during the broadcast of the show.

These interactions can also be between fans and other fans. Social media platforms such as Twitter afford instantaneous interactions and conversations between viewers. Many shows now promote the use of official Twitter hashtags during the initial airing of the program to keep fans connected to the conversations as they are happening. The interactions can also be just between the viewer and his device, where they are able to research aspects of the content they are watching, such as looking up a certain actor’s filmography on IMDB while watching the show. Digital television affords many viewers a more flexible viewing experience and promotes more interactions and participation during the viewing experience.


Bennett, James, and Niki Strange. Television as Digital Media. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2011. Print

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