Happy birthday! Television is 87 years old today!

Ane Howard · January 13, 2015 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/3b5b

From a one-inch square screen to our mobile devices, we sure have come far!

Couch potatoes around the world are unknowingly celebrating a major anniversary today, that of the first-ever television broadcast, which occurred on exactly this date 87 years ago.

On January 13th, 1928, three experimental television sets were installed in the private home of General Electric's inventor, Ernst Alexanderson in Schenectady, New York. The test broadcasts were brought by GE, years before its slogan, "We Bring Good Things to Life" came into our lives.

Programming being non-existent at the time, the test broadcast by General Electric and RCA consisted first of a person smoking, followed by a man playing a ukulele.

The first home receivers' screens were only one and half inches square, obviously a far cry from today's theater-sized flat screens but strangely enough a precursor to our newly adopted mobile-device and second screen viewing habits. If you look at the data from RedBee, 86% of those multi-screeners TV viewers watch mobile devices while watching a full-size TV screen. But that's about where the comparison ends. Mobility of viewing and programming took decades of technical and content creation innovations.

We've come a long way, but things are changing rapidly, even today. With hundreds of cable channels, and a clutter of programming, most of which we hold no interest for us, we are now in the midst of a streaming revolution with the arrival of the cord-cutters, a.k.a viewers who do not subscribe to a bigger cable package, and illegally stream shows. This has caused cable companies revenue losses in the millions.

According to a 2012 survey, there were 58 million cable subscribers, 46 million digital video customers, and one million cord-cutters that year alone, a number that has no doubt gotten even larger. Shouldn't channels want to capture that growing demographic?

HBO was a notable holdout, especially given that it is the home of Game of Thrones, the most pirated show in history. As reported previously here, the channel lost out on some $18 million on the season two finale alone.

It took a while, but HBO has finally given in, announcing last year that it will be launching its own standalone streaming service starting in 2015, one that, unlike HBO Go, will not require people to have a cable subscription. Obviously, this is a good decision, considering that it had lost millions of dollars in revenues just on Game of Throne pirated viewing alone. 

Jumping on the bandwagon, CBS also announced its own stand-alone streaming service last year as well.

Most importantly, Dish announced at CES 2015 that it will be launching Sling TV, an online streaming service for $20 a month. This new service will give subscribers access to 12 different Disney and Turner channels, and specially appeal to ESPN's sport fans but also include Disney Channel, ABC Family, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, TNT, CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network and content from Maker Studios.

This is the first time that a cable company has openly allowing its customers to watch channels without a subscription. How big of a deal will this be? It's hard to say. There are a lot of details about that we still need, and there isn't even a launch date yet.

With it being TV's birthday, and looking back on the way things have evolved, I can't help but wonder where today's inventors and policy makers will take us. Maybe streaming without interruptions and a return to TV and all media outlets whose primary mission is public service. As John Lennon once sang, "You may say I'm a dreamer..."

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Ane Howard

I am a social journalist covering technology innovations and the founder of RushPRNews.com, an international newswire.

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