Never mind the TV, we watch online

Who needs the boob tube when YouTube rocks? Not Singaporeans in the know, says Tessa Wong Straits Times
Monday, February 26, 2007. By Tessa Wong
Lately, my flatmates and I just can’t get enough of the BBC television series Never Mind The Buzzcocks. Night after night, the three of us gather on our couch in anticipatory glee, as I turn on my laptop, surf onto video-sharing website YouTube, and watch episodes of the half-hour British music quiz show. Yes, you read that right. We watch our TV on the Internet — and we aren’t the only ones doing this. Whether it is streaming video from broadcasters’ websites, or uploaded clips on independent video websites, watching TV on the Internet has become a recent phenomenon among digital natives.
YouTube is replacing the “boob tube,” if the results of a recent research study are anything to go by. The survey, conducted by Yahoo! and media communications company OMD, revealed that the average Singaporean teenager often performs up to four tasks while watching television.
No longer the captive audience of the goggle box, local youth today are relegating broadcast television to background white noise, while they busy themselves with surfing the Internet, chatting to friends using instant messenger programmes — or even watching other TV programmes on their computers. In other words, while youth still turn on their TVs, they tune out mentally, favouring the online medium.
It isn’t hard to see why. Broadcast TV is ruled by regimented schedules and shackled by long, annoying advertising breaks. By contrast, watching TV online is a fuss-free way to catch shows wherever and whenever you want to watch it, as long as you know which websites to go to, and have a good Internet connection.
The portable nature of this method, plus the fact that it’s totally free, has won it a fair share of young fans. “I like watching television this way. It’s cheaper because I don’t have to keep buying DVDs or VCDs just to continue watching my favourite show,” said Koa Jiayin, 15, a Secondary 4 student from Holy Innocents’ High School.
She can spend up to five hours a day watching Korean dramas and Japanese anime on YouTube. Said Ms Chen Peishan, a 27-year-old recent university graduate who watches 100 per cent of her TV online: “People want to watch television programmes at their own leisure. I don’t like it when my life revolves around watching TV shows according to a fixed schedule.”
Watching TV online is such a huge worldwide trend that major broadcasters in the United States and Britain now offer full episodes of their shows on their websites for free. Here in Singapore, home subscribers to M2Btv and MediaCorp’s mobtv pay monthly fees to watch TV online.
But it is doubtful that net-savvy youths — and there are so many in Singapore — will pay $10.90 a month to catch last week’s instalment of The Dance Floor. Why should they? They can easily watch the same episode on YouTube without paying a cent. If this latest youth trend is anything to go by, a future where everyone watches TV on the Internet — free, any time, any place — is not inconceivable. And we will be slaves to the goggle box no more.


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