×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Watching Live TV Vexes the On-Demand Generation

The urgency to watch ‘Breaking Bad’ and other shows when they initially air live feels strange to this beat reporter

For a TV beat reporter, I spend an alarming number of my evenings with my television off.

I chastise myself for this constantly: I should watch more live TV. I should have it on in the background.

Earlier this month, I was forced to.

“Million Second Quiz” bowed Sept. 9 on NBC, and I had to play along live with the “MSQ” app. I texted a friend: “Can we do dinner another night? I have to watch a show at 8 p.m.”

The irritation I felt at the inconvenience made me realize how heavily I rely on time-shifted viewing — not to mention that I wanted sushi that night.

No matter how many next-day ratings stories I write, I’m still the embodiment of the headache networks and advertisers suffer from these days. Nets struggle to measure how many people watch a TV program over three days or seven days, while Madison Avenue struggles to figure out how many are seeing their advertising messages.

I stream. I DVR. I read, I go to dinner, I run errands and see family, all during primetime hours. And with Netflix, HBOGo and Hulu passwords in my arsenal, I’m armed and ready to watch what I need to on my own timetable — unapologetically so.

Despite my habits today, the tube was always glowing when I was a kid: “Rugrats” and “Doug” were appointment shows for me and my younger brother; “Friends” and HBO for my parents. The sets ran in the background like comforting white noise.

But with access to high-speed Internet and a DVR, I ditched the remote as a teenager in favor of my laptop, fitting my favorite shows around my study schedule. I had a TV set in my college dorm and apartments, but the convenience of streaming was just too perfect: Slowly but surely, the TV set was off more than it was on.

More recently, however, I’ve been pulled back into the linear approach thanks to an acute case of FOMO (fear of missing out) brought on by “Breaking Bad.” You can’t work in this biz if you don’t watch that show, but Sundays are precious downtime days. On the night of the third-to-last “Breaking Bad” seg, I set my DVR and went to bed early with a memoir. When I awoke, I realized that the episode, “Ozymandias,” had pretty much shut the Internet down.

What the hell had I missed?

Oh, you know, (spoiler alert), everything: death, mayhem, more death, more mayhem, lots of tears, a kitchen knife and baby Holly’s critically acclaimed performance.

I had the freedom to watch “Breaking Bad” when I wanted, but as I learned the hard way, I wanted to be involved with the watercooler talk, and regretted not tuning in live along with 6.4 million of my fellow Americans. So, I put a Post-It note in my hippocampus: Gotta remember to watch “Breaking Bad” live next Sunday.

The days of “Must See TV” are giving way to the era of “Must Discuss TV.” That is the real incentive to watch live — to remain a part of conversation with friends, co-workers and the Internet. TV, especially for younger generations, occupies two extremes on the viewing spectrum: It is either incredibly personal, as you watch on your own sked, or incredibly social, with live tweets and texts fired off every few moments. The middle ground has all but crumbled.

When I finally grabbed that sushi dinner with my friend, I suggested she check out “Derek,” Netflix’s latest release. Less than a week later, she’d completed the first season.

Then, as if on cue, she texted, “Did you catch Sunday’s ‘Breaking Bad’? So crazy, right?”

I typed back a response. My TV set was off, but my iPhone was glowing.

More Biz

  • IWC Schaffhausen store opening, Rodeo Drive,

    8 Luxury Gifts That Industry Leaders Are Spending Their Paychecks On

    Whether you’re celebrating a new launch, a new business venture, or toasting to the end of another successful year, here are eight gift ideas to reward yourself — and to impress the company you keep. 1. Saint Laurent Perforated Leather Tote Bag If you work in the industry, you need a good bag, and you’ve [...]

  • best airlines ranked inflight entertainment

    Holiday Travel Survey Reveals Airlines With Best In-Flight Entertainment

    There are many ways to pass the time if you’re in the air, but for most people, settling in with a glass of wine and a movie is the preferred way to fly. But not all airlines share the same script when it comes to entertainment offerings. A new survey from the website, CableTV.com, ranked [...]

  • Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass

    Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass Attendance, Structural Growth

    BUENOS AIRES — Celebrating its 10th anniversary with a huge hike in attendance to over 4,000 accredited delegates, the 2018 Ventana Sur will go down in history on multiple counts: Sales and pick-ups on movies which combined social comment and entertainment value, increasingly the new foreign-language movie standard; new sections, led by a Proyecta co-production [...]

  • Jennifer Lawrence Harvey Weinstein

    Jennifer Lawrence Denies Harvey Weinstein's Claim in Latest Assault Lawsuit

    Harvey Weinstein was hit with a lawsuit Friday from an actress who claims he forcibly performed oral sex on her, repeatedly masturbated in front of her, and threatened to harm her career if she objected. The suit details that Weinstein claimed he was trying to help her and that he was the gateway to her dreams. [...]

  • Times Up Hollywood

    Time's Up Entertainment Announces New Industry Mentoring Initiative

    Time’s Up Entertainment, an affiliate of the Time’s Up coalition of women across industries working to improve workplace safety, has announced the “Who’s in the Room” industry mentoring initiative. The program’s goal is to increase the presence of people of color from diverse backgrounds in the entertainment industry’s executive ranks. Funded by a $500,000 grant from [...]

  • Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in

    Paramount Inks Deal for Theme Park in South Korea

    Paramount Pictures has announced a deal to install a studio-branded theme park in an entertainment resort being developed in South Korea. The agreement was struck between Paramount and Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, which owns the Inspire Integrated Entertainment Resort in the South Korean city of Incheon. Mohegan has invested KRW 2.8 trillion ($2.4 billion) in [...]

  • Davan Maharaj Mel Gibson

    L.A. Times Publisher's Lawyer Was Accused of Extorting Mel Gibson

    The attorney who negotiated a $2.5 million exit package for L.A. Times publisher Davan Maharaj was previously accused of using secret recordings to extort actor Mel Gibson. Surreptitious recordings also figure in the Maharaj case. NPR reported on Wednesday that Maharaj taped Tronc chairman Michael Ferro. According to the report, Ferro was heard on the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content