Is YouTube REALLY destroying television…?

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Who is it that can honestly say they dislike YouTube? I mean personally, I love it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve killed myself laughing at that sneezing baby panda, or got all nostalgic over an old 90s chocolate advert, or just spent some time watching an insightful/musical/funny/silly vlog.

Yes, I am an avid YouTube fan, in fact, with the way things are going this could well become known as theYouTube generation, not such a pleasing notion to everyone – I’m talking of course about the bigwigs of television.
The other day I happened upon The Culture Show and saw Charlie McDonnell. I like you-tubers, and so, decided to watch.

The programme was basically an overview of what YouTube is/how it started/what you-tubers are/how they make money/the effect the are having on broadcast television and advertising, blah, blah, blah…

The thing that caught my interest however was the rather uppity businessman from the BBC (or ITV, or wherever) who implied rather forcefully that YouTube was now responsible for TV’s slow decline into non-entity. The guy made the point that most of the videos on YouTube are utter rubbish that would never be shown on television, because of all the red tape.

Now, whilst I would agree that this is a valid point in some respects (i.e. the internet’s slowly taking over so people use THAT as the new ‘idiot box’/people expect more in terms of professionalism from TV and so stupid short vids wouldn’t get past the symbolic front desk/the internet isn’t monitored in the same ways as TV, so no FCC, no Ofcom, no MCC, etc.) I would argue that television has actually made a rod for it’s own back LONG before YouTube.

I’m thinking back to the introduction of cable and satellite television, of course. I was about five when we first got it, at the time , I didn’t really take into account the possible repercussions of such a device. I was five, there was a channel where you could watch could watch cartoons from dusk til dawn: woohoo!

But the introduction of cable and satellite is relevant to my point now. Up until then, my options for watching children’s TV were limited: either watch before school, after school, or saturdays, and find something constructive to do in between times. (Ahh, I remember those days, we had to do things like… play outside!)

However, once the cable was installed I no longer had to wait to watch my favourite shows, I could watch them all the time! Great! But no… not great. Not for the bigwigs at television tower anyway, because now that I was watching cartoons all day on Cartoon Network, I was no longer waiting to watch CBBC, or CITV, nor was I allowing mom or my bro’s to watch primetime or [insertprogrammetitlehere].

Obviously I’m just one person, so the tragedy of losing my viewing figure, won’t have been too great, but we got cable right in the middle of the great cable switchover (like what I did there?) when everyone else in the world also seemed to be getting either cable or satellite, and I should imagine that a whole load of other people were doing a similar thing to what I did and watching their favourite shows, therefore bypassing the boring stuff and also the new and potentially boring stuff.

But doing this meant viewing figures for most networks dropped dramatically, and so suddenly the on-going battle between television stations had expanded from 5 to a few hundred.

The solution: copy the original programmes that seem popular.

In actual fact this was hardly a new tactic – it’s been going on for years – but it certainly made the problem more profound, and not to mention blooming annoying! Suddenly all the half-decent dramas/general entertainment programmes/comedies/etc. were being cloned, and just as you’d expect, these carbon copies weren’t half as good, therefore usually not lasting half as long as their original counterparts.

However, here’s the problem; sometimes… oftentimes stuff gets publicised on tele that is utter cack! However, enough people may like the cack to give the network fairly high viewership, in which case, the cacky stuff also gets cloned… ew, and oh dear.

I’m sure I don’t need to list for you all the shows that offer proof of what I’m saying – besides there’re only so many talent shows and reality programmes I can think of before wanting to slit my own wrists!

But then we get to the noughties, at this point we’ve already passed the time of introduction of the ridiculous and repetitive networks (+1, rewind, 2, -%!$, or whatever the hell some of them are called) and suddenly the internet has come into it’s own.

In 2005, YouTube was created, and the first ever vlog posted, within a few short years people were posting films and tv programmes, either short snippets, or in their entirety. By the late noughties most major networks had their own catch up TV websites – they had to, just in order to keep up with a modern society who had suddenly refused to have their tv schedule dictated to them.

But you can’t really blame YouTube for that.

People are busy, they no longer have time to watch lengthy programmes, furthermore they wanted more control over what they watched and when they watched it.

Well, now they have it, or rather it was given to them, ironically by the TV bosses themselves. What with the iPlayer, TiVo, and all the other stuff out there we needn’t watch anything we don’t want to ever again, and that includes stuff that may actually turn out to be TV gold. YouTube has nothing to do with that, it’s simply fulfilling a service, and at the same time filling a hole.

When it comes down to it, TV planned it’s own destruction, a long time ago, in these late stages it appears that it’s the internet, not YouTube, that’s helping the small screen along it’s slow path to destruction, but who knows, with the webseries and vlog series becoming an ever more popular form of entertainment, perhaps YouTube will act as the final nail in the coffin for television?

Originally posted to tumblr in 2013

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