How did the Internet revolutionize television at the start of the millennium? And how has it changed in the last decade?
On September 22, 2004, the first season of the hit (understatement) television drama series LOST commenced, and on May 23, 2010, the last episode of the sixth season aired (Krukowski, 2008). Episodes were released weekly during each season, and there were generally about 6 months between seasons. There was an immense amount of time that each viewer could dedicate to thinking and processing the story of this hit television show that combined elements of science fiction and the supernatural with Survivor and Lord of the Flies.
(LOST is available for streaming on Netflix)
During these week breaks between episode and half-year long breaks between seasons, fans of the show spent hours upon hours thinking about the show, what would come next, and how the many mysteries tied into the story and the characters. The fans independently developed numerous online communities that were dedicated to episode discussion, speculation, and theorizing. These websites, such as The Fuselage and Lostpedia, had thousands of members that communicated online every week, not only while the episode was airing live, but for days after speculating potential events and theories throughout the week before the next episode aired. (Lowry, 2006 & Lostpedia, 2007).
Thousands of online communities emerged that were central to the fandom discussion of hundreds of television shows in the 2000s. One website that centralized how television enthusiasts entertained themselves is Reddit. Reddit is a social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion site. Content entries are organized by areas of interest called ‘subreddits’ (By The Numbers, 2016). The subreddit topics include news, science, gaming, movies, music, books, fitness, food, and image-sharing, among many others (Wikipedia: Reddit). Online message boards and television communities have shifted to Reddit and engaged in invigorating dialogue about their favorite shows (and movies). There are subreddits for discussing almost every American television shows that exist. For example, this is the current front page of the subreddit discussion board of Breaking Bad, one of the most popular television series ever.
(Here are the subreddits for some of the more popular modern television shows: The Walking Dead, South Park, Jersey Shore, and The Bachelor: some of the live episode discussion posts on these subreddits have over 18,000 comments for just a 40-minute long episode, that’s 7.5 comments every second!).
The Internet, through these developed online communities, has revolutionized how people watch and discuss television, and more generally how they entertain themselves. Recent booms in online streaming, like Netflix (see extraordinary company growth data) and Hulu, has further metamorphosed the television entertainment industry (Netflix Inc., 2015).
Next time I will be demonstrating the extremely important (and powerful!) entertainment media platform YouTube, in The Behemoth of Online Entertainment: YouTube.
2. “About Lostpedia”. Lostpedia. Retrieved 2017-03-07.
3. Lowry, Tom (July 24, 2006). “Network Finds Marketing Paradise with Lost“. BusinessWeek. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
4. By the Numbers: 60+ Amazing Reddit Statistics expandedramblings.com, Digital Tracking Blog, downloaded 10/23/2016.
5. “2015 annual results”. Netflix, Inc.