Wednesday, January 27, 2016

One more way TV is driving away viewers

Traditional television is under attack. Consumers, sick of endless commercials and high cable and satellite prices, are turning elsewhere. Some are signing on to Internet streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, while others are going even further, shunning anything even resembling TV, and getting their entertainment from Instagram, video games and the endless variety of new phone apps.

You would think that, given this environment, the TV industry would be doing everything it could to hold onto viewers. So why are they aggravating so many viewers by not letting them see the whole screen?

An increasing number of programs are cutting off the visible part of the show on each side. Watching sports, I find key parts of the action sometimes happen off-screen to the right or left. Written information, like the team line-ups, are often cut off.

A PBS documentary on Walt Disney cut off the full names and titles of people being interviewed. On some shows, I see only half the face of a speaker. I feel like I'm seeing only three-quarters of each show.

Even commercials -- the lifeblood of TV -- are increasingly framed in a way that you can't even see the full name of the product.

Some say that I need to buy a wide-screen TV, but why is the onus on me just because some television producers have changed their product? My TV works perfectly well, and the screen proportions it uses were perfectly fine for 50 years of television.

Why should I spend hundreds or even thousand of dollars on a new TV to meet their needs? If I run out and buy a new set, and then the Gods of TV decide to change show proportions again -- making them even wider, or taller, or who knows, oval or round  -- do we all have to drop everything and go purchase new TVs again?

I'm enjoying TV less and less each time I find a show where parts are missing.

"You don't have any choice but to get a wide-screen TV," some people say. But I do have a choice. I can choose to watch the frustration-free shows where they don't cut off the edges ("Jeopardy," for example). Or, I can choose not to watch TV at all -- and increasingly that's what I do.


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