Digital, Interactive and Personalized Development Since 2000
Diversified and Personalized Development
Entering into the 21st century, new technology developed and people’s requirements and expectations for television-viewing experience also have changed. Multifunctional, interactive, personalized and smart television has become the trend for television development. During this period, digital and smart television are two innovations in television development.
The advent of digital television (DTV) is a great leap in television technology, which is closely related to the availability of inexpensive computers. Unlike cable and satellite television which uses analog signals to carry audios and videos, digital television uses digital encoding to transmit television signals (Kruger, and Peter, 2002). DTV has many advantages over analog television.
DTV has higher transmission efficiency than analog TV, since digital signals are much more compact than analog signals they take smaller space of spectrum then analog television and therefore they have more space to offer more programs for audience. Besides, digital signals are unlikely to be degraded when they travel along the spectrum, therefore DTV could provide high quality images and sounds. Apart from traditional television services, DTV could also provide more innovative services like electronic program guides, multiplexing, etc. ((Song, Yang and Wang 2015).
By providing more options and more services for individual viewers, digital television takes the market in China rapidly. China started to pilot digital TV in June, 2003, and according to the Chinese government's plans, by 2010 the existing cable television in cities above county levels in most areas of the country will be digitized. The analog signals within the country will be switched off in stages between 2015 and 2018. The development of digital television is both the result and the facilitator of the privatization of the television-viewing trend.
Before the 21first century, watching television is a family-focused activity in China. It is a tradition for the whole family to sit together in the living room and watch television programs. According to scholars Ruoyun Bai and Geng Song (2015) the 2000s witnessed a twin development of television. On the one hand the privatization of television viewing has been greatly intensified via mobile devices and the internet, on the other hand, there is a return of television to public spaces through digital billboards or mobile screens installed on public places.
The popularity of mobile devices and the development of digital encoding for television not only has transformed the way of watching television but also has profoundly changed the concept of television. Before the 21st century, when talking about television, images of people gathering around and sitting before a television set will come into our mind. But in modern society, when talking about television, there are multiple devices could be referred to, from public billboards to personal cell phones. As long as they could play television programs and broadcast television shows, they could be regarded as a form of television. Therefore, in the twenty first century, to watch and broadcast television programs is not the advantage for traditional television, in order to compete with other devices with similar functions and meet the requirements of the audience, television needs to explore new directions for its development. Smart television is an option for many television companies in the twenty first century. Smart television always converges computers, television sets and set-top boxes togehter therefore it can also be called as hybrid TV and it integrates the function of many other devices to make itself a multi-functional machine.
To meet the demands of the new generation and to compete with new technical devices, smart television seems to be a temporary solution to maintain its status until one day there is another great leap in television technology which could transform the way of watching television fundamentally.
To accommodate the development of digital technology and smart television, a new fashion of television viewing mode is becoming extremely popular in China, which is an interactive way of watching videos pioneered through interactive video websites. The interactive mode of watching videos now has been adopted by basically all large video websites in China and has been added into many television programs.
The first interactive video website in China is AcFun, which is a video sharing website that launched in June 2007. The name of AcFun is an abbreviation of “Anime, Comic and Fun”. Learning from the Japanese website Niconico, Acfun is the first video sharing website in China which allows is users to put comments on top of the videos.
The website is initially designed for ACGN (Animation, Comic, Game and Novel) community and is an influential video sharing website for its audience. Another similar website Bilibili was established in 2009, where users can submit, view, and add commentary subtitles on videos. Besides sharing comments, one important role for these interactive websites is that they are leading new fashion and shaping new culture among the young generation.
The younger generation in China, who were born under the family planning policy makes up the majority of the users of interactive video sharing websites. On the one hand, the young generation is more likely to learn and accept new things, on the other hand, their preference for this kind of website may be influenced by their own life experiences. Under the family planning policy, many people born in 1980s and 1990s are the only child in their family, they are used to being alone but at the same time they may also want to seek some company. The mode of this interactive video watching experiences therefore is the optimal choice for many young people. They can communicate with others and be connected to a larger community, but at the same time they can still maintain some privacy.
Since entering into the twenty-first century, China no longer just follow and simulate other countries, with the growth of its economic power, China is seeking a way to transmit its own culture instead of only obsorbing things and ideas from others. Television programming has beome a key area for China's cultural export. In 2017, China Central Television launched a cultural exploration program named National Treasure (Wang 2017), which organized nine major museums in mainland China to present their cherished collection. Each treasure in the TV program was introudeced to audience and their values and stories were performed and told by celebrities. This program has been exported to many foreign countries to exhibit Chinse Culture. What is interesting is that, to attract more young people to participate into this culture-exploring journey. China Central Television has uploaded these episodes on Bilibili, which has spirred heated disccusions on the internet and many yong people have been attracted to those collections. This could be regarded as a combination of traditional television programs with innovative video-viewing technology. The interactive, diversified and personalized television-viewing mode is becoming more and more popular in the twenty-first Century and new technology are always influenced by the social condition in one way or another. On the other hand, new technology for example new mode of television viewing method will also help to shape the culture and in returen cast its influence on the society. Terefore from my own perspective, hard technology and soft intellectual or cultural elements are closely intertwined with each other as well as influence each other.