The big-screen, flat-panel television: an in-home entertainment game changer. More pixels and high-definition signals created amazing, high-quality images for television shows and movies. These TVs became commonplace in many homes where bigger is better. Larger dimensions create a better experience when watching a sporting event, concert, or movie. Size matters.
So what happened to all that real estate?
Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, news and sports stations have added scrolling tickers to their broadcast. At the time, this seemed strange – but now it’s expected. On that terrible day in American history, we were able to follow multiple stories at the same time: the live broadcast and updates from those at ground zero.
In the 10+ years that followed, users have received their news less from broadcast television and more from web sites and social tools – the so-called “second screen.” Someone watching television will simultaneously access their phone or tablet for additional information. These changes led to the biggest shift in high-def TV.
Information, not size
Television broadcasts are shifting away from “the most pixels make the best picture.” Instead, televisions are using that extra space for more information. What was once a beautiful 42″ display has now been reduced to 2/3 of its size because of graphics, charts, and information.
Take the third presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The broadcast cared less about showing as much of the candidates as possible and more of the “pulse of the nation” – something typically found on Twitter and other social tools. Less face time, more information.
In a world of second screens, does it make sense for television broadcasts to fill precious pixels with information found elsewhere? The television industry is already considered to be behind the rest of the technological world (why are cable boxes and their interfaces terribly designed?).
For the smart networks, they’re relying on mobile web sites or apps to deliver secondary information to the user. A perfect example: Conan on TBS. Their iPad “sync” app does precisely that – during a broadcast, you can sync your iPad in order to follow along with the show, in real time, with secondary information. In this example, TBS can use as many pixels as possible towards their comedy bits and beautiful celebrities while their audience still shares in the experience of additional data and information.
The lesson: use the tools as they were intended. Keep it simple and rely on compatible strategies to deliver additional information to the user or viewer. It makes for a better experience – and a better use for your television!