Post-TV: Piracy, Cord-Cutting, and the Future of Television by Michael Strangelove (review)
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Reviewed by
Michael Strangelove. Post-TV: Piracy, Cord-Cutting, and the Future of Television. University of Toronto Press. viii, 352. $32.95

If one is looking for a glorious overview of the strange and ever-evolving world of the contemporary television landscape, look no further than this book. Even though the subtitle of the book highlights the future of television, Post-TV is not designed as prognostication. Nothing relegates an analysis of media to the trashbin of history faster than either gleeful or hand-wringing statements about what might happen based on what has already happened. Strangelove is careful to not fall into this trap. He emphasizes how the prefix of "post" does not mean the end of TV but the end of a particular way of participating in TV brought about by fundamental shifts in television production and reception in an Internet-era. At the outset, readers are told that TV has transcended the medium whereby one watches televised stories and now refers to storytelling. By necessity, Strangelove's story highlights the panoply of changes afoot in viewing devices, modes of production, and audience behaviours, but it never turns into an exercise in media determinism or technical minutiae. [End Page 141]

Rather than dwell too much on the specifics of post-TV content and the mechanics of its distribution, Strangelove effectively outlines the contours of post-television culture, highlighting important ramifications for identity politics, cultural nationalism, and obviously consumer choice. While statements such as "the post-television era is movement towards high-definition reality" may not be convincing on their own merit, they evoke both the unpredictability and the sense of inherent possibility inaugurated by all these changes. Indeed, Strangelove has a knack for attention-grabbing language such as when he states, "we are tampering with our media DNA," or suggests, "commercial television is an addiction that will not be quickly tossed aside like a dirty needle that pricked our collective consciousness." Far from distracting readers, though, these typically underscore the dramatic nature of current TV times and provide poetic insight that tends to strike a balance between hype and reality.

However, one could accuse Post-TV of being inflected by a slightly utopic tone, privileging active audiences who have been freed from passive viewing and oppressive institutions. Even though Strangelove asserts that narratives about media systems' loss of control require careful qualification, only one page later he argues that television is increasingly characterized by "an unconstrained flow of counter-discourses, a clash of contested beliefs, and a veritable renaissance of diversity." Admittedly, with all of the information provided in the book, it is difficult to deny that the offline audience of the last century is profoundly different from the more autonomous, disruptive online audiences of today awash in digital plenitude. New technologies have afforded audiences new opportunities to pay for, pirate, and produce television, and Post-TV goes to lengths to contextualize the normalization of piracy that seems to undergird so many of the developments outlined here.

The analysis in Post-TV is thoroughly researched. Each chapter typically has more than one hundred citations adding up to forty-two pages of notes at the end of the book followed by a bibliography that spans thirty-nine pages. While the barrage of statistics and industry studies and anecdotal reports from users on the frontlines of this ongoing television revolution can, at some times, seem overwhelming and can have the effect of underscoring the obvious, Strangelove does a fine job of streamlining and organizing the narrative in order to make his story about the post-TV moment compelling.

It is easy to imagine how prescient the idea for this book must have seemed when first contemplating it. It is even more impressive to consider its continuing relevance in light of every new announcement coming from the CRTC about streaming media, android boxes, Netflix regulation, and so forth. As cord-cutters, cord-nevers, and cable-shavers continue to [End Page 142] both adapt to and force changes to television as we know it, this book will serve as a useful guide to these technological and cultural skirmishes.

Derek Foster
Department of Communication, Popular Culture & Film, Brock University


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