The history of free TV shows is actually the history of television itself in perspective. For the last 75 years or so, television had developed into something not foreseen by its supporters during its formative years before.
For one, the business of making people watch free TV shows had transformed into a multi-billion dollar industry (more than $50 billion as of last count) in the U.S. alone. And consciously or otherwise, television had become a touchstone of popular culture it had helped spawn through entertainment, education, news and current events, politics, sports and many other facets of modern life.
Since the first public demonstration in August 25, 1934 of the all-electronic TV system in Philadelphia by Philo Taylor Farnsworth, it took only a little over a decade or so (the 50s) for television to grasp the extent of its economics. Most of their revenues would come from the advertisers.
By late 1950s, live TV was out and most of the series were filmed. One big advantage of filmed TV shows would be the possibility of a rerun or syndication for re-airing at some future time (which means more income). During this time, too, westerns and detective dramas were in vogue and were top-raters.
In the 60s, newscasts were lengthened from 15 to 30 minutes. Although ratings for newscasts did not equal those of the other free TV shows (notably the entertainment sector), they earned enough viewers to attract advertisers and earn their keep.
It was also at around this time that formats for the news were changed. There came other flashier features – show business news, sports, and spectacular news like fires and crimes – incorporated into the mainstream body of news reports.
By the 80s, cable stations like CNN, ESPN, MTV and many others entered into the mainstream TV industry. Commercial TV boomed. By the 90s, almost 70% of homes had cable. However, viewer preferences were remarkably narrow. Nickelodeon shows and some sports programs led the ratings.
With the entry of cable, the networks changed their strategies in presenting the news, as we have noted. But the bigger change would be in the free shows and other entertainment programs. These shows would re-invent themselves and become more daring and audacious.
The Fox Network, established in 1986 and owned by Australian Rupert Murdoch, was the most enthusiastic of all the networks in welcoming these new loose trends in programming. Some of their comedies, action and drama series, and some reality shows crossed the boundaries of good taste. This was also in time with the relaxation of federal regulations in broadcasting.
The other networks did their own innovations along with the current trends and tastes pervading among the viewers, especially those who patronize the free shows. The old standards are still making headlines and money (series on hospitals, police procedurals, family dramas).
However, the old action and adventure segments have branched out into areas that were not heard of before, or too fantastic to imagine. At the moment, reality shows and other hybrid shows (American Idol, Dancing With The Stars) lord it over the current ratings.
The 21st century
Today, every country in the world has at least one television channel. This had enabled them to share their own culture with the rest of the globe’s citizens, and vice-versa. One example was the huge celebration in every continent in connection with the onset of the new millennium. It fulfilled an old goal of bringing the world together into one global village, in real time.
With the expected convergence of the computer and television in the near future, there may be more changes in the viewing habits of people as well as the changes in the sources of news and information and how they are to be disseminated.
For followers and viewers of free TV shows, what could be more exciting?
Latest posts by RoundCircle (see all)
- A documentary about the generation who fought for sexual freedom - June 26, 2015
- True Detective - June 25, 2015
- Massimiliano Fichera – Italian Baritone - May 29, 2015