A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to look at a 1954 newspaper on microfilm. The entertainment section caught my eye.
First, the theatre listings caught my eye. A long list down the page, listing what was playing at every theatre in the city. From the addresses, it looked like no household in the city was more than a 15-minute walk (yes, walk) from a cinema. They were in virtually every neighbourhood. An interesting concept.
Then there were the radio listings. Not only for the three local stations, but also for WDAY and KFYR across the U.S. border in North Dakota, and nighttime listings for the Chicago 50-kilowatt powerhouses, WGN and WLS, whose signals covered the continent after dark.
The radio listings looked much like modern-day TV listings: stations had a mix of news, current affairs, music, game shows, comedies, dramas and mysteries.
Television changed all that. People no longer had to leave home to find entertainment, the neighbourhood cinemas gradually closed down, and radio stations adopted one-format programming as the something-for-everyone format became unprofitable.
Now, the 500-channel universe marks a new technological change.
Will the traditional networks survive in their current format, or will they ditch the 'variety' format in favour of running a package of one-format channels?
For example, is it far-fetched to see NBC, CBS, ABC, CBC, BBC, CTV, ITV, Seven Network and all the others offering a package of one-format channels, relegating the idea of one channel offering something for everyone to history?
And if that happens, what will happen to local TV channels? Will local 6-and-11 newscasts be phased out in favour of 'news whenever you want it'? Will other local productions disappear altogether, or be replaced with video-on-demand?