Beyond the Box: Television and the Internet

The television industry, bottom-line, seeks to please its viewers. What I have discussed in this book is a shift occurring within the industry and within viewers' lives that appears to be influencing what television viewers are coming to expect from the industry in terms of what pleases them. It is my contention that the rise of the Internet (and particularly broadband connections) has stimulated a likely already-present desire among viewers to participate to a larger degree in the experience of storytelling - whether by influencing narrative decisions, or by understanding the process of creation more fully, or by sharing thoughts Beyond the Box: Television and the Internet and feelings with both creative professionals and fellow TV viewers. A cursory glance at one's daily newspaper, magazine, TV show, or child sitting at the computer reveals that the Internet is involved directly with how an increasing number of us are "playing with" TVincluding how those in the industry are playing. Networks are pulling clips from YouTube because of copyright protection issues - and setting up their own sites for viewers to visit for clips and promos and special webisodes. Some networks are even creating their own Web Channels, where original programming can be found; some of these shows are Beyond the Box: Television and the Internet being shifted to TV, while others await the mainstreaming of a devi~e than can beam computer content to the viewer's TV set. Sports fans are watching March Madness games at CBSsportsline.com, "paying" with their demographic information. Advertising companies and networks are working together to set up social networking capabilities for their viewers, beyond the domain of teen audiences. Fans of new shows are setting up websites that will be ready to kick into high gear the moment their show becomes threatened with cancellation. Writers, directors, and producers seeking to break into the industry are bypassing television Beyond the Box: Television and the Internet momentarily, using the Internet to promote their own work - and some of them are landing paid work in the industry. TV-oriented websites are even popping up unexpectedly, as when Conan O'Brien made a joke on his late night comedy show about a fictional website called hornymanatee.com; NBC legal experts advised that the show's producers create the website rather than risk a lawsuit for naming a domain that did not exist (and that a fan might buy and put unsuitable content on). Growing research on online fandom in the arena of marketing is confirming Beyond the Box: Television and the Internet what fans and some scholars have long known: fans' activities online culminate in making the text their own through shared endeavors of saving, rereading, redistributing, discussing, and recreating (Koerner 2005). The Internet is not a precondition to this arena of activity, with fandom stretching far back into the history of media. So what, really, has changed because of the Internet in terms of teleparticipation? What drives people to use the Internet to participate with TV, and what happens when viewers' desires meet up with those of creative professionals and also those of industry professionals? I believe that what I have Beyond the Box: Television and the Internet described in this book is a fundamental shift in how viewers, industry professionals, and creative professionals are coming to understand TV in the age of the Internet. While this shift is by no means completed, the increasing pervasiveness of the Internet in everyday life, and the opportunities it has created for viewers in particular, indicate that what the reader has seen in these pages is hardly a fluke. Key among these changes is the development of an aesthetics of multiplicity. Shows that have marked tele-participation feature narratives with multiple points of view, typically through the use of Beyond the Box: Television and the Internet ensemble casts, and often, but not always, through complex narrative structures. These programs also often focus on incomplete stories, typically by relying on seriality and interruption.


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