Everywhere you look in the new televisual landscape, there are platforms. If you want to understand the future of television, you must understand platforms. A platform is a thing from which to launch other things. But what things? To launch in which direction? With the hope of achieving what?
These are just a few of the more relevant questions, the answers to which only generate more questions: a twisting path of possible answers taking television who knows where?
In other words, you have no hope of understanding what's happening. All you can do is look at the platforms as currently used and go, "Really? Is this something we're doing now?"
TVNZ, for so long our only "broadcaster" still has channels, but nobody under 30 much cares about them and nobody under 10 will even learn the word. It will almost certainly be removed from the school curriculum.
The TVNZ platform, as it stands, includes — but is not limited to — a website and app containing collections of original content, box sets of existing shows, even a sponsored section called Golden Crunch Entertainment Zone. It has the feel, as does so much of what we watch right now, of something that's not at all like it will be next year, or even sooner than that.
Here's an example of where things are at: TVNZ last month launched a joint project with NZ On Screen called From the Vault, available on its OnDemand platform. Each month, it will feature a selection of six to eight short clips from old New Zealand television shows, loosely based around a theme. November's theme was Before They Were Famous and December's is Vintage Quiz and Game Shows.
This is what this sort of platform has the potential to do: to make space for the things for which there is no space elsewhere. It's a way of bringing us a deeper connection with our history, with who we were and how it brought us to who we are, and other things like that, which you may never previously have cared about, and possibly still don't.
The short clips in From the Vault are themselves a platform, from which you can launch your own exploration. It's a reminder that we now live in an era in which you can, if you want, watch a short clip of Suzanne Paul on Blind Date with Dave Jamieson from 1989, then link directly to a full episode of Blind Date with Dave Jamieson from 1989.
There are important historical documents collected here. From the 1960s on, television has told our most consistently moving and grandly affecting stories.
The first clip available in the Before they were famous collection is an interview with, and performance by, the young Russell Crowe's band Roman Antix.
He was known then as Russ Le Roq and he sat sexily on a couch alongside the band's super-manly, vaguely-menacing guitarist, Alias. It didn't really matter what their terrible music sounded like because these guys were charismatic sex-rock gold. If you saw them sitting there on that couch in 1985, Le Roq grabbing Alias in a manly side-hug and mussing his hair, you could not have believed that they would not go on to major international chart success. In reality, Russell Crowe was just a few years away from being completely forgotten as a musician.
If there's a point here, it is probably this: just because we don't know how something is going to turn out, just because it has not yet found its true power and direction, doesn't mean it's not going to change the world, for better or worse.