Once upon a time, TV producers made a show, the networks aired it, the viewers watched it on their TV sets and if the ratings were high enough, the show would keep being made and aired. If a viewer wanted to rewatch the show, they could either record it on their Videocassette Recorders or wait around for the off-season to watch the reruns. My, have things changed for television. In the last decade, DVRs and the internet have altered the face and future of television.

The internet has been in people’s homes since the 80’s but back then, it was mainly tech-geeks online. It wasn’t until the mid 90’s that the web started to become a regular household item. I don’t need to go into the full history of the internet. Most of you were there. I’ll just get to the point and say that once the internet became popular, it wasn’t long before websites sprouted up all over the place celebrating and slamming popular TV shows. Online forums, chatrooms and resource sites like Tvtome.com (now known as tv.com) were being frequented by TV fans all over the world. Finally, the TV industry had more than just critics and ratings to use to figure out what the people wanted to see.

In the past few years, technology has made vast strides in terms of the television industry. DVRs have made it even easier to record TV shows than VCRs did. Services like Tivo and those offered by popular cable companies have revolutionized the way viewers watch TV by offering features that automatically find and record a viewers favorite shows. Tivo also tries to find other programs that it thinks its owner will like based on the other shows they record. The technology has also expanded greatly through the internet.

Not only are people able to use their DVRs to watch more TV and check out shows they might not normally be able to watch due to their work and social schedules. TV viewers are now able to go online to watch TV shows. That started out illegally of course with torrents and peer-to-peer networks allowing viewers to share bootleg files but over the last year or two, the networks have started offering their most popular shows for download on applications like iTunes, through their own websites and by affiliating themselves with video-viewing websites like youtube.

Aside from giving viewers new ways to watch even more TV than before, how has this affected the industry? If I had the resources to determine what the networks use to gage the popularity of a show when taking the ratings, the critics, DVR usage and the internet into account, I’d be able to provide the data to back up my speculation but I don’t. I’m just a viewer like you so I can only speculate. There are a number of things that have happened with regard to television over the past few months that proves the internet is having a profound affect on what is on television these days:

1. Veronica Mars gets saved after fans rallied on the internet and basically demanded that the new CW network keep the show – whole websites got together and campaigned for the show. They flew a banner over the network headquarters, did petitions and sent letters and gifts to the network in a desperate but effectual attempt to save the show. This kind of campaigning never would’ve been possible without the internet to unite the fans. The ratings alone weren’t enough to hold the show up and had it not been for the fan’s vocal enthusiasm, ‘Veronica Mars’ may have gone the same route as shows like ‘My So Called Life’, ‘Freaks and Geeks’ and other shows that, despite their loyal fans, were cut off way before their time.

2. NBC uses the internet to boost interest in ‘The Office’ – Ok, so NBC isn’t the only network using the internet to keep fans interested in their shows. ABC has been doing the same thing with ‘Lost’ and the online game that fans can play to find clues about the show. With ‘The Office’, rather than a game, the network has been airing brief “webisodes” to fill the gap between seasons and keep viewers interested in the show. They also have other features on their website including those hilarious “The More You Know” clips and deleted scenes.

3. Dumped pilots are leaked online and develop a following - The first show that was dumped, leaked then picked up was ‘Nobody’s Watching’. It was initially a WB show but after the network decided they didn’t want it, it somehow found its way onto youtube.com and created enough internet buzz for NBC to rescue it. The second semi-successful occurrence was recently with ‘The Adventures of Big Handsome Guy and His Little Friend’. Fox passed on that show and then it somehow turned up on youtube.com. While Fox ordered a cease and desist on the website for hosting the pilot episode, and has not added it to its fall lineup, it was reported that the network has extended its option on the series through December. It’s only a matter of time before this happens with more shows.

No one knows who is responsible for leaking the shows but the result was positive for both shows so its only a matter of time before this happens again. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for networks to start using the internet as an enormous focus group by allowing people to view pilots over the summer and then submit votes/input on which ones they’d like to see make it to the lineup.

A couple of weeks ago, after The CW decided not to pick up the new show ‘Aquaman’ for it’s fall season, the network put the pilot up on iTunes for sale to download. It debuted at number 1 and as of right now, is number 9 on the list of most downloaded TV shows. As far as I know, the network has no plans to air the show but the fact that they put it up on iTunes shows that either they thought they could make some money off it or perhaps they wanted to test the waters (I know, a pun is nobody’s friend) to see if the show could gain a following before spending anymore money on it.

The above is just a few recent examples of how much the internet is affecting not only what television shows we watch, but also how accessible TV shows are becoming for viewers. It’s not as though it’s a huge surprise that the internet is playing such a huge role in television these days. Afterall, in the last decade, the internet has become as common as television in our society. But over the last couple of years, not only is the television industry using the internet to grow and expand, the internet is also allowing viewers to have a say in what they see as well as when and how they see it.

What to Watch (8/13 to 8/19)

”Big Brother: All Stars” (CBS) 8:00pm
(New!) – See the houseguests do a whole new Head of Household competition after the one shown on the live episode last Thursday was voided due to technical difficulties with Howie’s buzzer. Also see who the new Head of Household nominates for eviction. The game is getting majorly messy this season and even the live-feed-addicts are having a hard time figuring out who is with who.

”Entourage” (HBO) 10:00 pm
I Wanna Be Sedated- (New!) – Turtle has some problems on Saigon’s release day and Eric comes across another movie idea for Vince. The show seems set on a 3-plot-per-episode format this season. I noticed with the last few episodes that while the writers are juggling numerous plots in the season between all the characters but that only three are addressed per episode. I guess tonight it will be Vince, Turtle and maybe Eric or Ari as the third.

The American President (Oxygen) 7:30pm
Ok, its not totally realistic in terms of the plot but its amazingly romantic nonetheless. I just love this movie. Michael Douglas plays the president and Annette Bening plays an outspoken lobbyist who catches his eye and his heart.

Miss Teen USA (NBC) 8:00 pm
I can’t stand beauty pageants personally but I’m sure at least a few of you out there like them so there you are. A bunch of teenagers parade around smiling, performing a talent and modeling bathing suits in the hopes of being crowned Miss Teen USA.

America’s Got Talent (NBC) 8:00pm
I just love this show. The variety and the level of talent among the finalists is astounding. The series is coming to and end though and in this episode, all the finalists will have the chance to perform their talent one last time before the grand finale.

”Big Brother: All Stars” (CBS) 8:00pm
Live Episode- (New!) – In this episode, not only will we see who is evicted and who gets HoH, we’ll also find out who won the coup t’etat twist and whether or not they’ll use it this week.

America’s Got Talent (NBC) 9:00pm
Season Finale- (new!) Will it be the quick-change family? The tapping guys? The yodeling girl? Find out which act will win the first season of ‘America’s Got Talent’ result show.

Monk (USA) 9:00pm
Mr. Monk Gets a New Shrink(New!) Monk’s therapist’s cleaning lady gets murdered and Mr. Monk ends up trying to solve the case so he can have his shrink back. The more I watch this show, the more I just love it.

Psych (USA) 10:00pm
Who Ya Gonna Call?(New!) Shawn and Gus help a man who is convinced a ghost is trying to kill him. This is another show that’s quirky like ‘Monk’.

Not Another Teen Movie (Comedy) 8:00pm
If you’re like me, you’ve seen every ridiculously cheesy teen movie from the 80’s to today. Not Another Teen Movie is a hilarious spoof-comedy that pokes fun at a variety of teen movies ranging from Pretty In Pink to Cruel Intentions and many others.


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