I had a very upsetting realization over spring break — I’m an absolute dinosaur when it comes to new advancements in digital media, a triceratops obliviously munching on ferns while dozens of volcanoes erupt around me and a meteor the size of Jude Law’s forehead streaks towards earth.

Once upon a time, I was always streets ahead when it came to new technologies, especially those relating to film and television. I spread the gospel of Blu-ray a good three years before it hit the consumer market and I was even a beta tester for Hulu back in 2007.

But when I went to visit my friend Xin Xu at Duke University, I saw that somehow, I had become the equivalent to an octogenarian looking up pot pie recipes on the Google machine.

It all began when I casually mentioned to Xin that I would be requiring his television Sunday night to watch the Oscars.

“Well, that’s a problem,” he replied. “Seeing as I don’t have cable.”

Utter bewilderment followed. What nonsense! How does Xin freakin’ Xu — the kid who instilled my passion for television in the first place by introducing me to “Arrested Development” and “Lost” back in high school — not have a cable subscription? He explained that he just watches everything on Hulu now.

As I launched into a tirade about how watching shows on a tiny laptop screen with lousy computer speakers ruins the experience, especially eliminating the novelty of watching television as a social activity, Xin sauntered over to his television and booted up his PS3. Next thing I knew, we were watching the latest episode of “The Office” in pristine high-definition on his glorious 42-inch flatscreen with a group of friends.

“You can watch Hulu on your PS3?” I exclaimed. Xin responded in the affirmative, in his classic “I’m shocked by how stupid you can be sometimes” tone.

Unbeknownst to me, my biggest issue with Hulu had been eradicated, all without the hassle of HDMI cables (and in better quality, too).

It made complete sense — why pay $200 a semester for a basic cable package when Hulu Plus was only $7.99 a month? But I thought I had uncovered a flaw in Xin’s plan the next night, when he was planning to invite friends over to watch (then) #1 Duke play Virginia Tech in college basketball. When I asked Xin how he planned to watch the game without cable, he reprised his “My god, you’re an idiot” tone, explaining that you can stream ESPN college games on an Xbox. As he and his friends cheered on Nolan Smith, I sat in amazement at how rapidly everything has changed in television.

My colleague Ankur Sohoni discussed the digitization of home video and its effect on the film industry in a column last month, arguing that despite the advent of advanced home theater systems and services like On Demand, people will still go to movie theaters because they provide a matchless, captivating experience.

The same can’t be said for the digitization of television. Internet-streamed shows provide the same experience — arguably, because of unlimited access, a better one — so why would people put down cash for a cable subscription?

The answer is, they won’t — according to The New York Times, 216,000 cable subscriptions were dropped in the second quarter of 2010, followed by 119,000 in the third quarter. A significant factor to explain this decline has to be people like Xin who rely on Internet streaming for their television habits.

Hulu — which is a joint venture between ABC, NBC and FOX — isn’t going to just terminate. It needs to exist, otherwise people would pirate even more than they do now, and the networks wouldn’t see a speck of ad revenue from all these pirates enjoying their content. But because Hulu exists, fewer people can justify continuing their cable subscriptions, especially when budgets are tight. It’s a catch-22.

People aren’t going to stop using the Internet to watch TV now that the former has been ingrained into our culture, so the networks need to find a way to monetize Internet streaming. And if they don’t anytime soon, it could be game over, man, for networks like NBC. I can’t say I have a concrete solution — if I did, I’d be sitting in Jack Donaghy’s office up in 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

But networks need to begin with producing shows directly for the web — developing cheap, high-quality programs for now (à la “Children’s Hospital”), and producing “Lost”-caliber shows in the future, once the model has proven to be successful. I doubt it’ll be long before the next “Community” premieres on a web browser near you.

As for the Oscars, I could have watched them in a common room while Xin was at his tutoring job, but instead, I decided to bring my laptop to his work and live stream the show so we could watch it together. I did feel a bit strange, watching such a prestigious presentation that I look forward to each year more than any other broadcast — for the first time in my life, on the Internet. But honestly, we’re all going to be watching them over the Internet soon enough.

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