Watching TV Used to Mean Sitting in Front of a Set in the Living Room. What Does It Mean Now?

Over the past two years COVID has only enhanced the trend of streaming TV shows. We spoke to seven Israelis aged between 9 and 73 about how their viewing habits have changed

children watching tv
What used to be a single product has splintered into a variety of forms of consumption.Credit: ClassicStock / Alamy Stock Photo

Traditional television is dying. What used to be a single product has splintered into a variety of forms of consumption. Now people generally watch when it’s convenient for them, meaning that television has become video on demand – VOD.

The trend has been long in the making, reflecting how the internet and smartphones have taken over our lives, but the past two years of a pandemic, when we’ve spent lots of time at home surrounded by screens, have accelerated the process. We spoke to seven Israelis ranging in age between 9 and 73 about the changes in their viewing habits.

Maysan Nasser

Maysan Nasser. The Big Bang Theory over and over.Credit: Amir Levy

“I have a 7-month-old daughter and she needs a lot of attention, so I can’t watch a lot of television – maybe an hour a day at most. But when I was pregnant, I would watch TV all the time. Outside of my pregnancy and the birth, my normal routine has been to watch three or four hours every night until bedtime.

“My favorite series is ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ I watch it on Netflix with my husband, mainly in the evening. We rewatch all the episodes over and over. It’s our favorite series. Every time we watch it, we laugh. When I’m alone, if I have the chance, I mainly watch true crime series – the kind they have on Netflix. I mainly use YouTube to watch the news [via an app on the television]. When I lived with my parents, I would watch Turkish soap operas with my mom and sister on the television in the living room.”

Adam Zarchi

Adam Zarchi. Bayern Munich and Manchester City.Credit: Eyal Toueg

“What I like most is to see gamers and people doing challenges on YouTube – like an escape room where you have to solve a riddle within an hour and then you get another code. The videos are in English, but I understand most of what they’re saying because I was in an English-speaking kindergarten and my mother was born in Canada.

“Sometimes I watch series for kids on educational television or on Netflix. I like the [Israeli comedy] series ‘Alone At Home,’ which is about children whose parents are [stuck] abroad and [the children] can’t leave home. There’s another series called ‘Babysitters,’ which I watch with my mother and father and my brothers [who are 4 years old and 1], and on Friday nights, we have a tradition of watching a movie with the entire family. Sometimes I watch soccer games with my grandfather. We like foreign teams – Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

“Most of the time, I watch on my iPad or on my mother’s computer or my father or mother’s telephone, usually my mother’s. We also have a television that we watch things on together. Sometimes we get something on the telephone and then link it to the television. Actually, I like to watch on the television because there’s a big screen and it’s easier for me than holding something in my hand all the time.

“I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I would like to be a YouTuber myself, but there are other things I want to be.”

Tzipi Linzen

Tzipi Linzen. Difficult to change habits of many years.Credit: Rami Shllush

“At our house, there’s only a television in the living room. I’m opposed in principle to having screens in the bedroom. I don’t like watching videos on the smartphone.

“I watch television for three or four hours a day, but it varies based on the day and on the classes that I am taking. If I have a physical fitness class or a lecture, I gladly do without TV. You could say that I watch about an hour in the morning, sometimes less, an hour in the afternoon, and then more in the evening – when there’s something interesting to watch.

“In general, I very much like watching nature channels – usually National Geographic – and documentary programs and films. I watch Kan 11 [public television] a lot. My husband and I watch the news together. The series that I’ve been watching recently are ‘Emily in Paris’ – I finished the second season not long ago – two seasons of ‘Virgin River,’ ‘The Queen’s Gambit,’ ‘Shtisel,’ and now I’m about to finish ‘Maid’ on Netflix. Everything is on the television in the living room.

“It’s difficult for us to change habits of many years, and we don’t plan on changing our television viewing habits. I know there are a lot of [options] now, but my husband and I aren’t very technological. Once we tried to watch a series from a website, but we didn’t manage with it. Somebody tried to explain to me how to use it, but I don’t get it at all.”

Nadia Sokolenko

Nadia Sokolenko. Russian programs on YouTube.Credit: Eyal Toueg

“We have one television in the house – in the living room – which we watch together. [Our daughter] Maya dominates most of the screen time, meaning that it’s usually cartoons and TV series appropriate for her age on television. She watches programs in Russian on YouTube. In the middle of the week, she watches between 7 P.M. and 8 P.M., and after she goes to sleep, we watch other programs in Russian on YouTube, for up to two hours a night.

“When I watch television, it’s on VOD sites in Russian. I know that isn’t okay, but I don’t have the programs in Israel. Now I’m watching a series in Russian from the 1990s about the period following World War II, which you can only find on VOD.

“On rainy weekends, we spend a lot of time in front of the screen. We not only watch television series and movies. We also consume a lot of programming such as physical fitness shows and live performances such as Cirque du Soleil. We really like watching live performances and instructional programs about the human body.”

Roni Kandel

Roni Kandel. Don’t like watching television alone.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

“I have a television in the living room. When I sit down to watch something, I prefer to watch on my television. That’s me and my partner’s prime viewing time. Sometimes when I’m in bed, I watch on a laptop. I don’t watch television every day, but if it’s the middle of the week, it can be up to three hours of watching. On weekends, it can get be to eight hours a day of watching TV.

“I don’t like watching television alone, I quickly lose interest. I prefer watching together with my partner or with a friend. When it’s with people, I like watching mostly older comedies such as ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘30 Rock,’ but I’m interested in new things that people recommend. My favorite series is ‘Six Feet Under,’ and every once in a while, I start watching it from the beginning on a platform where the series is available.”

Agam Wittenberg

Agam Wittenberg. Videos on TikTok.Credit: Amir levy

“When I watch television alone, I like to watch ‘Coca, Ltd.’ [an Israeli reality show], ‘Emily in Paris,’ ‘Teen Taxi’ [an Israeli reality show based on a British format], movies on Netflix and videos on TikTok. Most of the time, I like to just listen to songs on YouTube on the television in my bedroom, for about an hour and a half every day. If there’s an interesting series that I’m into, I can watch television alone for even two and a half hours a day. My favorite series was one that I saw on Netflix about a year ago – ‘Gossip Girl.’

“My smartphone is my screen of choice. Most hours of the day, I’m on TikTok, Instagram and WhatsApp, and at the same time, I’m listening to songs on YouTube and also doing other things. I have no problem with ads on television and I have no problem either with watching stuff like TV series on websites. When we watch as a family, we watch the news and then afterwards reality shows such as ‘Survivor’ – which is the family favorite – ‘Fair & Square’ [an Israeli reality show] and ‘Israeli Ninja’ [based on ‘American Ninja Warrior’]. All told, I’m in front of the screen every day for about five hours.”

Rafael Kabesa

Rafael Kabesa. Netflix and soccer.

“When my daughters aren’t here and I’m home alone, I watch Netflix and soccer. When we’re together, we watch movies and series on Netflix. When I watch regular television, I give it an hour and a half a day. When there are big games on, mainly soccer, it can get up to two and a half or three hours.

“I watch on all of the screens that I have – on the family television in the living room or on the television in the bedroom, on a smartphone, tablet or laptop. I prefer to watch on TV, but because of the large amount of time that I spend at work, what happens is that I watch a lot on the smartphone. But it’s relatively less than the time spent watching other programming on the family television, where I watch soccer. I’ve recently been watching ‘Explained,’ a documentary series on Netflix.”

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