David Letterman’s 33 Years on Air and TV De–con–structed

Old TV

As many people know tonight was the final episode of the 33 year run of the David Letterman show. It was on NBC as Late Night with David Letterman from 1982 to 1993 and then on CBS as The Late Show with David Letterman until tonight.

As I was watching clips of the opening monologue (below) and final “top 10” list I thought this is a metaphor for TV as a whole and how it has evolved since Letterman started. When the first show aired on NBC in 1982 most people showed up in real-time (12:30 am) to watch the program on broadcast TV and sit through the commercials.

Later people subscribed to cable and more people “taped” the show with a VCR for on-demand viewing. They fast-forwarded through commercials.

DVRs then replaced VCRs. And tonight, in the post-cable TV era, I watched most of the show’s segments in the form of embedded clips on different websites (not CBS), neither in real time nor in sequence as they were presented on the program itself.

Most of each of these segments were presented with different pre-roll ads, some of which were skippable. Beyond this, I am able to embed those clips here on this blog.

So there it is: we’ve evolved from appointment viewing where the network controlled advertising and distribution to an on-demand system where people can watch deconstructed clips of shows on myriad sites (but especially YouTube) and the network is a background and only marginal factor in the consumer mind.

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