Skip to content
Surprising Science

Waving Goodbye to the Television Set

In a week that saw plenty of quarterly reports see the light of day, two in particular caught the eye of couch potatoes everywhere. Are televisions the latest casualties of the global economic collapse?

The first came courtesy of South Korean electronics giant Samsung, who reported a 72% drop in quarterly profit, caused in large part by a $231 million loss in their LCD television division.

The same week, Japanese electronics rival Sharp, who had experienced their own major losses in their massive LCD TV division, was forecasting a return to profitability this year on the strength of their mobile phones. It all could mean that the boob tube [which isn’t really a tube anymore, anyway] is in big trouble thanks to online and mobile content.

Of course, the writing first went up on the digital wall with the launch of YouTube, which in about three years has gone from a venue for user-generated content into a hub for all kinds of movie, music, and TV content. The online video giant has inked partnerships with Disney and Universal Music Group in the past month alone. Even avid CSPAN viewers can now catch sessions of the United States Senate and House of Representatives on YouTube. Noticing YouTube’s incredible popularity, the content providers got in the online business themselves, effectively putting LCD manufacturers in the corner.

The first big TV media hub to catch fire was Hulu, an NBC Universal initiative that shows content from over 130 content providers, including Fox, MGM, and Sony. That means free access to countless episodes from roughly 1,000 different shows as well as several more movies. Looking to cut into Hulu’s market share, CBS Interactive launched with a high-profile mobile application available for the iPhone. So not only did offer more than 20,000 TV show episodes, but people could view them on their phone. With Hulu readying an iPhone app of their own, the battle for mobile and online television is just getting started. One noticeable absence in this epic fight: the television.

With the DC-Baltimore area set to become the first city to receive free mobile TV content on area handhelds this summer, the television [arguably the most important invention of the twentieth century] could be approaching obsolescence. With high-profile companies now seeing their LCD TV divisions as dead weight, you better get used to watching TV on your phone or computer.

Stay tuned for an exclusive Big Think interview with Avner Ronen, whose new company Boxee is reimagining the television-internet hybrid.


Up Next