My TV-related resolution: no downloading

Last updated 10:16 09/01/2012

We're only nine days in, but 2012 already feels like a transitional year for television in this country.

The switch to digital starts in September. TVNZ7 is due to go offline in June (please visit SaveTVNZ7.co.nz and sign their petition to help make sure this doesn't happen). Local channels are starting to embrace quick turnaround on shows, bragging how quickly they are bringing over foreign content like American Idol (which starts again next week, a mere 2 days behind the US). Plus, our most successful, most popular television show will celebrate its twentieth anniversary in May.

20120109Then there is the cord-cutting movement, in which viewers dispense with their flat-screen TVs and providers (like Sky TV) in favour of finding their entertainment online - a movement which has been gaining traction overseas in the last few years and seems to be approaching a global tipping point as internet speeds and streaming video websites improve. PC Magazine recently reported that 9 per cent of the respondants in a 2000-person survey had cut the cord, while a further 11 per cent indicated that they were considering it.

I've been thinking about cord-cutting in the last couple of weeks, particularly as it relates to downloading television shows. So often in this country, the act of downloading is closely tied to programming delays or dissatisfaction with providers - just like cord-cutting. We justify it by saying "but if I don't download, I'll have to wait for my favourite show until two months from now". We're effectively cutting cords simply through bypassing local networks.

But let's be honest: we're just being impatient - and I'm certainly including myself in that. Toward the end of 2011, I downloaded new episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, even though I know for a fact that it will be airing on TV3 this year. I was impatient. I wanted the show immediately. But why do I want to watch CSI immediately? Is my life somehow better for having seen it a few months earlier? Is there some enjoyment to be had by watching it in November rather than in March? The answer is surely no.

Author James Gleick explored the idea of modern impatience in his book Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything, published in 1999, in which he shines a spotlight on the speeding-up of life. We take for granted the instanteous nature of things that our parents and grandparents had to wait for - think about how fast a short email is compared to a hand-written letter sent by post - and that certainly applies to TV.

In the introduction to his book, Gleick writes:

"We are in a rush. We are making haste. A compression of time characterizes the life of the century now closing. Airport gates are minor intensifier of the lose-not-a-minute anguish of our age. There are other intensifiers - places and objects that signify impatience. Certain notorious intersections and tollbooths. Doctors' anterooms ("waiting" rooms) ... Remote controls: their very existence, in the hands of a quick-reflexed, multitasking, channel-flipping, fast-forwarding citizenry, has caused an acceleration in the pace of films and television commercials ... We humans have chosen speed and we thrive on it - more than we generally admit. Our ability to work fast and play fast gives us power. It thrills us. If we have learned the name of just one hormone, it is adrenaline ... Instantaneity rules in the network and in our emotional lives: instant coffee, instant intimacy, instant replay, and instant gratification."

It used to be that, if you wanted to watch a new episode of your favourite show, you had to be sitting right in front of the television at the exact time it started. In 2012, we can go online and find shows before they've even aired on local television; if we miss an episode, even an entire season, we can find it and watch it whenever we want.

So I've decided on a TV-related New Year's resolution: I'm going to try to be patient. I'm giving up downloading.

It's not that I've had a change of heart on the act of downloading; you're not going to start seeing anti-downloading posts here at On The Box - my stance will remain that local networks need to investigate fast turnaround of popular shows, bringing them to our screens quicker, and I truly believe that downloading will continue (even increase) until that happens.

In fact, On The Box was one of the reasons I decided to do this: it has always been the stance of this blog to cover only shows that have aired on local television - that being the case, there isn't a benefit to downloading shows as far as this blog is concerned. I could be using the time I previously spent finding, downloading and watching shows I can't talk about here to check out more of what is on our local channels.

So what do you think: am I completely insane, or do you agree that a little patience is all that is required? Would you ever consider trying to go download-free? And what, if any, TV-related resolutions did you make this year?

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Or, feel free to email Chris at 
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This is a spoiler-free blog - please comment responsibly.

84 comments
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Panda   #1   10:26 am Jan 09 2012

Man, Shortland Street having its 20th Ann. makes me feel sooooo old! I remember being 10 and reading the articles on this new drama which would be awesome and waiting so patiently for it to start. I followed it religiously for years, 'taping' any episode I would miss. I still love it! And yep, laugh it up with my TV watching choices... As for pre-watching I think it's only required when there will be a lot of media hype in your face before you see it. I read a lot of US gossip sites (like Perez) so for things like Jersey Shore, I have to watch it in advance! Not so much with shows like Nurse Jackie, or Californication which doesn't have the hype in the media I view.

Warwick   #2   10:27 am Jan 09 2012

I download. Why? Not necessarially because I am impatient, but because If I am a big fan of a show (Such as Sons of Anarchy or Game of Thrones) I want to follow them on Twitter and Facebook, follow the actors and watch the webisodes. If I do that and wait for NZ channels to show them I loose out due to all the spoilers I'm exposed online. Online content is now becoming part of the show experience. So until our channels catch up, they will loose out and I have no sympathy for them.

Come to think of it, other than the news, I literally do not watch anything on a NZ channel.

shaun   #3   10:32 am Jan 09 2012

insane, NO and to not watch any crud reality tv. I watch tv by either downloading or online. There are less ads and I can watch it when I want to. My life doesnt revolve around the tv schedule, I get to decide what I think is watchable and not have to sit through some stupid reality program.

Ellicat   #4   10:36 am Jan 09 2012

I have completed my tv related new years resolution of getting rid of pay tv. I installed a Freeview PVR this weekend and all that is left to do is cancel the pay tv subscription (which may sound easy but I spent 20 mins on the phone this morning and all I got was a "someone will call you back within 3 days". Still, I will persevere!) I don't think that you are completely insane, my main beef with the delay between shows airing overseas and here is the risk of spoilers. Even an article that appears entirely innocent can hint at something that has happened overseas already and not here. E.g. reading an acticle about an actor and suddenly the questions turn to how well they have done since their shock exit from show XYZ ... ARRRGGHHH!

Peter   #5   10:43 am Jan 09 2012

While impatience with local programming is a factor, I think a bigger factor is variety and choice. Even though we have so many channels to choose from these days (and even more if you subscribe to Sky), there are still so many programs which we don't get her on any channel, and are difficult or impossible to get on DVD. I think some people turn to downloading because they are fed up with countless competitive cooking shows, mindless talent shows, and endless procedural crime shows. The difference between impatience and lack of variety or choice is an important one in terms of the changes programmers should be considering. It's not enough for them to simply get the same rubbish in faster - they should be looking to revamp the entire model of regionalised broadcasting. In this age of increasing globalisation, it's ridiculous that the choice of television is restricted to people on a particular landmass. Broadcasting is no longer limited by the technology of radiowaves, so let's push for global entertainment.

noodle   #6   10:44 am Jan 09 2012

I think you are totally nuts - sorry Chris!

I don't really watch that many tv shows anymore (a couple years back we had a downloading roster so we would never miss a show - we were at about 45 shows a week which is NUTS and embarrasing) but the shows I do watch either won't air here on free tv (GoT, Shameless US etc) or if they do, won't be on air for months after their original air date in the USA (Homeland, SouthLAnd etc etc).

I admire your stance, but I won't be joining you. I promise not to give away any spoilers tho.

Jess   #7   10:47 am Jan 09 2012

I don't even have my TV connected to the arail anymore, I just stream everything through my laptop and watch it on the TV Screen. Almost all of the streaming websites I use have some form of advertising running through it, so its not about cutting out the ads, its watching shows when I want to.

My life style is such that I only spend one or two hours at home per day (aside from sleeping) and I don't want to have to schedule my life around when the "good" shows are on.

Having said that, I potentially epitomise the adrenaline based life style, if I have to wait more than 10 - 15 minutes for something I can get/see/do instantly, I usually give up and do it my way later!

Lisa T   #8   11:01 am Jan 09 2012

I download - my reason is ..... Why should I have to wait. It is free to stream on line and to download TV shows. Why should I wait untill our TV networks take their time getting them. Who gives a toss that we are getting Idol 2 days later instead NZ has shows that are 1 year if not more behind. The other benefit of streaming or downloading is NO ADDS. I am sorry but NZ tv has so may adds and on some occassions they are painfully annoying when watching things. Again my question is "Why should I HAVE to wait"

Leon   #9   11:02 am Jan 09 2012

Sit through endless Briscoes ads? Nah, I don't believe I shall subject myself to that again. Plus of course if you've got friends in country of origin of the show, you tend to get stuff spoiled for you when they discuss things on forums.

Robbie   #10   11:04 am Jan 09 2012

One of the biggest reasons I download is simple - spoilers. When Dexter Season 6 finished airing everyone jumped online and talked about the final amazing episode. If I had to wait until it aired in NZ then I'd end up finding out what happend before that due to the delay. It's almost impossible to avoid hearing or reading about what happens in a TV Show online. A little patinence won't help with TV Shows the take over a year to air here either. That would take a truck load of patience.


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