Sunday, April 09, 2006

New Viewing Options Great for Couch Potatoes

When I was a kid, we could get all of four channels on TV and if we wanted to watch a favorite program, we had to be there in front of the set when the program was on. Otherwise, we would have to wait and hope we could catch the episode during the summer reruns.

We received our programming over an antenna and it was limited to the three major networks, because there were only three at the time, plus independent Channel 4. We had no cable, satellite dishes, VCRs or DVRs.

Today, of course, there are dozens of cable and over-the-air networks. In addition to CBS, ABC, and NBC, the 1970s brought us PBS. Then cable came along and suddenly we had HBO, USA, CNN, and a host of special interest channels like the Food Network, the Science Channel, and all kinds of music channels.

There are channels for sports and fashion. There are channels for high society and rednecks. There are channels specifically programmed for women’s interests and those for men.

In addition, we no longer are a slave to the TV executives’ programming schedule. If we want to watch a favorite program, we don’t have to be there in front of the TV when it’s broadcast. We can video tape it or digitally record it to watch whenever it’s convenient for us.

The VCR helped to change our TV watching habits by introducing something called time shifting. We could record a program and watch it later.

But the newer digital video recorders, or DVRs, have perfected what the VCR introduced. We don’t have to learn how to set the recorder for a certain time and channel. All we have to do is tune to the on-screen programming guide and select the show we want to watch. The DVR will record a single episode or all episodes, whichever we choose, of the program we want.

The viewers have become the master schedulers of programming. No matter what time a program airs, we can watch it whenever we want.

And now, we don’t even have to have a television to watch our favorite shows.

With all the different channels, along with the Internet, the competition for viewers is fierce. So major networks are clamoring to offer their viewers even more options.

With broadband Internet access becoming more prevalent, networks have started offering many of their primetime programs online. You can download a program and watch it from your hard drive, or you can stream it.

Some programming is free and includes advertisements. Other programs you have to pay to download and they are commercial free.

So if you happened to miss an episode of your favorite program, don’t worry. Just go download the episode from the Internet and watch it on the computer. Or you can even transfer it to a portable media player, like the iPod, and take it with you.

A new computer network system is now coming on the market that will let you network your TV to your computers. If you are hooked up, you can send a downloaded movie or TV program to your television from your computer.

Couch potatoes are no longer tied to the oftentimes annoying programming schedules of the TV networks. With the right equipment, they can watch all their favorite shows during a single block of time, one night a week, and have the rest of their evenings free to join the rest of the world in other activities.

With all the TV viewing possibilities these days, I can’t say I miss the good ole days of television.

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