As USA TODAY celebrates it 30th anniversary, we interviewed some of the USA's greatest visionaries to talk about the world of tomorrow: How we'll live, learn and travel, what we'll do and who we'll be.
LOS ANGELES -- Want to know the future of television? Think small.
Smaller, more diverse channels. Programming targeting smaller, more focused populations and communities. Shorter program run times. Even tinier TV screens, on everything from wristbands to eyeglasses.
But no matter how small things might get, content will always be king, and advertising will remain huge -- though their forms will change with tastes, times and technologies.
That's the view of Debra Lee, chairman and CEO of BET Networks, a multimedia company that leads in providing entertainment for African-American viewers and those with an interest in black culture. Lee, 58, brings more than 25 years of expertise at BET, where she has overseen increases in viewership and revenue.
Just as her network is finding success targeting new programming to the black community, she believes the industry will be compelled to provide more options to meet the interests of an increasingly diverse world of viewers.
"It will become a business imperative," Lee says. "We'll see a lot more programming targeted toward the African-American community, the Latino community, the Asian community, the populations that are still unfortunately ignored by some networks."
And while she sees networks surviving thanks to the strength of their branding and ability to rise above the clutter with events such as the Super Bowl and the Oscars, they will not be the sole source of inspiration.
Even now, we're starting to see user-generated ideas migrate from the Internet to TV, a distance that will continue to shorten. "I think there will be more cameras everywhere, and more things that show up on television from those creative types who may not have had a choice or opportunity to do it before," Lee says.
Some of those programs might be shorter than today's half-hour and hour-long standards as television emulates the more flexible formula preferred on the Web. But she also sees room for longer-form programming -- even the long-out-of-vogue miniseries -- as programmers try to provide a special experience.
Of course, viewer involvement will grow with technology's new methods of interactivity, a trend spawned by today's social media and smart TVs. People "want to talk about the program (or) to be able to buy what people are wearing," she says, or "they want to ask questions: 'Where have I seen that actor before?'" That outfit on 90210? "Point and click, and the outfit will show up the next day."
Viewers could become at-home directors, perhaps selecting from a menu of endings on favorite shows. "We'll have the ability to change a plot or give input or vote on American Idol immediately, and have much more impact on the programming," Lee says.
As viewers interact more with TV, TV will learn more about them. Ads could be customized. "If they know you want to buy a car, they can saturate you with car commercials."
With the demand for TV on the go, smaller, portable TVs will contrast with the larger screens in homes. Lee already has seen a prototype of 3D glasses in which the TV is built into the glasses. "So you can just put on the glasses and watch TV anywhere."
And there's one more thing that Lee predicts -- and hopes -- will get smaller: a certain type of reality TV.
"I don't know how long we can take the train-wreck variety. I know there's a lot of voyeurism going on and audiences seem to like it, but I don't think it's going to stand the test of time."