Yesterday The New York Times published a series of articles under the umbrella title, Sofa Wars. The focus of the series is on how people watch TV and what might be happening in the viewing/TV industry as more and more viewers move away from cable to other types of services.
Today I read through some comments on a New York Times blog post on the topic of cable vs. other forms of access – Hulu, Apple TV, NetFlix, and so on. I started to think, what does this change in TV access mean to teens? Do we know how teens prefer to watch TV? I know that some are definitely using Hulu and other web-based tools (we can’t forget YouTube) for content viewing. What are their favorite methods and how do these methods have an impact on library programs and services? And, of course, this isn’t really just about traditional TV types of content. NetFlix recently announced a deal which provides the company with the ability to stream a large number of feature films as a part of their Watch Now service.
Do librarians serving teens need to think about this and consider what it means for their collections for teens? Is it still necessary to collect TV of interest to teens on DVD? Or, do we expect that services like Hulu, Google TV, and Apple TV will take the place of DVDs? While I understand that some of these services have a price tag, is the price tag worth the cost in comparison to something like cable TV? Does the ease of access, not having to visit the library to pick up the DVD, outweigh that cost for a teen, or a group of teens who might chip in together in order to view content of their choosing? Does this take the place of going to the movies? Does it take the place of going to a movie at the library?
As I think about this, I wonder, what is the library’s role in providing access to movies and TV to teens? For those who show movies in the library, it’s probably at least in part related to the social experience of watching a movie with a group of people. That being the case, maybe the library needs to sell the viewing experience in that way. The library doesn’t make the fact that you can see the movie at the library the selling point, but instead focuses on the social experience, and perhaps in some cases the experience of watching on a high-quality large display.
Maybe it’s about the opportunities libaries provide teens before or after the viewing. The events a library might sponsor in order to give teens a chance to talk about what they saw, or are looking forward to seeing. Or, the video trailers librarians might have teens create that promote a new season of a TV show they are looking forward to.
The thing is, as viewing behaviors change for teens, and others, perhaps librarians need to think not just about access to the content but instead focus on connecting those interested in the content. It’s not a focus on checking-out content, but a focus on checking-in with teens about the viewing they do. Having discussions, providing outlets for expressing ideas about the content, and providing social opportunities for experiencing that content.
And, think about this too, if you aren’t spending money on movie and TV DVDs what might you spend those dollars on? Perhaps it’s on hardware and software so teens can create TV and movie trailers. Or, it’s money that can be spent on bringing in an expert to talk with teens about movie or TV production.
If you find out from teens about their viewing behaviors you’ll find that you’ll want to change your library behaviors accordingly.