Everywhere in this city's social haunts, I see television programming. Go to the nearest coffee shop, and there are people sitting around watching television. In the libraries, people go specifically to watch their TV shows. At school, in the common areas -- and even in the lecture halls, students huddle around programs. People watch anything from the newest Game of Thrones episodes to what could now be called retro Simpsons reruns. Vancouver also has a significant number of people that come from different backgrounds who watch shows in a number of different languages.
But people aren't watching these shows on televisions anymore -- they're watching them on laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
To be fair, people are doing more with their electronics than watch television shows, but these observations fall in line with recent data released by Statistics Canada.
According to Statistics Canada, the 24% of Canadians used computers in their leisure time during 2010 -- compared to 5% in 1998. 73% watch television on any given day, which is a drop from 77%. This shift is even more pronounced in the 15-24-year-old demographic where the number who used computers in their spare time amounted to 32%.
These numbers are probably very conservative in their estimates because Stats Can collected data through telephone surveys that excluded those who only own cell phones; this is a group that represents 13% of the population and that is likely to have a lot of computer use.
This data couldn't be more timely with the CRTC hearings that are happening in Gatineau right now -- where the public regulation body is considering the implementation of broadcasting rules that would influence the type of programming within the big media carriers and over-the-top services such as Netflix and Youtube. The concern is that carriers will be able to tie-up exclusive content in a way that will restrict what customers will be able to see based on who they subscribe with.
According to Pete Nowak, the CRTC should not implement any regulations. If it comes to regulating over-the-top services, in the case of YouTube, "Measuring and controlling the service for Canadian content would probably be next to impossible" -- not to mention the profitability issues, which Google has yet to accomplish. As he describes it, "If the CRTC foolishly decides otherwise and does try to get involved, it will enter its own regulatory form of the Vietnam or Afghanistan war. Its mission will be hopeless and it will be endless."
As far as the big television providers are concerned, if they do begin to restrict programming with exclusive content, this will only quicken the migration to Internet-based content.
What's silly about this whole discussion is that within a generation, all of these discussions will seem ridiculous. As our televisions integrate with computers and Wifi, and as our phones become more like televisions, the distinction between television and Internet is fast-becoming obsolete. Another interesting number that came out of the Stats Can report is that video game use has doubled from 3% to 6%, but with mobile gaming becoming one of the most lucrative markets in the gaming world, it will become increasingly difficult to measure how much time is actually spent playing a round of angry-birds between sending emails.
The integration of technology and media is becoming more pronounced and if the CRTC decides to introduce regulations around content, Canadians will likely turn to online piracy in the form of BiTorrents, which Nowak labels "the ultimate competition."