The future is now! Soon every American home will integrate their television, phone and computer. You’ll be able to visit the Louvre on one channel, or watch female wrestling on another. You can do your shopping at home, or play Mortal Kombat with a friend from Vietnam. There’s no end to the possibilities!
—Chip Douglas, as played by Jim Carrey in 1996’s The Cable Guy
It was almost a decade-and-a-half ago that the above prophetic words were spoken in the Ben Stiller-directed ode to television The Cable Guy. That’s pretty recent in the grand scheme of things, but a long time ago on the technology front. In 1996, I still had a pager (instead of a “cellular car phone”) and only had access to the “World Wide Web” at school. And when people said “The Cable Guy” people generally knew you were talking about this movie and not “Larry the Cable Guy”.
So the “Chip” character’s above prediction was actually pretty premature. It’s a far cry from how many media professionals actually feel today; that television and the internet are competitors, and TV is losing viewers to the internet.
But in my opinion, Chip’s feelings are more accurate. Consider that much of the video you find online has already aired on television, as have many viral videos. Much of the news linked and paraphrased on blogs has been culled from other websites run by large-scale media conglomerates.
And perhaps most poignant of all is the fact that when TV first burst on the scene, many Americans thought it would mean the death of radio. Quite the contrary; radio had to go through a metamorphosis of its own in order to stay viable. Decades later, I still can’t imagine a car ride without radio, and am proud to include radio positions on my resumé.
And so, much like radio was decades earlier, television is on the eve of a big change, thanks to the internet. And The Cable Guy’s predicted future really is now.