Look I'm Lazy When Watching TV

Stein Erik Sørhaug

In his mostly irrelevant early 90s phase Bruce Springsteen sang about 57 channels and nothing on.  Decades later we have hundreds of channels, several choices of services, and thousands of titles at our demand — in an instant. Increasingly though the feeling many of us who appreciate hiding from the world through a movie or show is that there’s still nothing on, and we don’t know how to find what we want.  

For a while dropping cable was simple and hugely cost saving.  We had Amazon because Prime, and who really wants to leave their house for a store anymore?  Netflix, Hulu, and sometimes HBO for the one show that you forgot to cancel the subscription for when it was over.  There were other lesser options too. They came and went, a few even had good content. Some were ad driven to give access to the long tail, but I dismissed those when the first ad played.  Overall the breadth of options to search through was limited and felt somewhat encompassing.   

Quickly the options are getting crowded and confusing, with more exclusive content splintering to come. Here in the US in addition to incumbents like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime services like Disney+, HBO Max,  AppleTV+, as well as the re-merged CBS/Viacom behemoth, are now all rushing to market. Each pushing their own exclusive content and content windows.  Through their own service, separate. Like old TV channels almost, but primarily with VOD driven navigation and usage.

From a pure business perspective these competing entities will do well for vendors and suppliers in the near term.  This competition is healthy, it will drive innovation and to a point consumer choice. It’ll play out winners and losers in the streaming wars as stories recently defined it.  Simultaneously the separation of these services will no doubt further splinter what content is found where and when, becoming little content islands in the stream(s).   

I wonder now if we are sliding back to the cable package.  Which is awful. The video was supposed to kill the radio star some song once said, like streaming was meant to kill traditional TV.  Not just be a way to rebrand & rebundle it onto new technology. 

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Like most people I only watch certain shows and movies and we all have our own diverging tastes.  I have no time for reality TV or news, or anything too political. If I want to see people be angry, arguing, and competing with each other, I can just watch a Boston commute.  I’ll hop to Netflix when I recently wanted to see that ‘Breaking Bad’ show people used to talk about. It was OK but I really didn’t buy Walter White’s character development into someone so bad.  Maybe I’ll catch an episode of ‘Mad Men’ to get some work tips. I’ll look there too for new and exclusive content like ‘Altered Carbon’, ‘Stranger Things’, ‘Black Mirror’ and even quirky stuff like the ‘OA’ which reminds me of the kind of story some east coast prep schooler would tell at some hazy party some lost evenings long ago. 

 

Sometimes through well curated promotion I’ll find a new mailed-it-in Adam Sandler movie for when I need a nap or the well enough dubbed Russian show ‘Better than Us’ about the coming robotification of our workforce. I’ll catch ‘The Expanse’, ‘The Man in the High Castle’, ‘The Boys’, ‘Good Omens’, or ‘The Patriot’ on Amazon Prime and maybe Hulu for a new episode of ‘BH90210’. Then Amazon or Vudu to rent new movies or shows I can’t find elsewhere.  From CBS ‘Discovery’ is ok and I’d like to see what Old Man ‘Picard’ has been up to before I get annoyed with Star Trek techno-babble and weird Rodenberryisms that were still left in the TNG timeline content. The issue going forward is that all of a sudden these shows are spread across services with increasing exclusivity. Siloed. Each with their own subscription and navigation paradigm. As a viewer I want a few shows and movies from each service, but really don’t want the whole library.  

I don’t like to jump from app to app when looking for what to watch.   I don’t like searching more extensively than by a specific title or genre.  I do like recommendations based on viewing patterns to help discover content but I don’t want to give up much of my private personal data for that.

I’d love to never see an ad again.  I will pay a premium to have ads removed where that’s an option or just not watch that service if it is not. That’s not to say that from a business perspective I don’t see their revenue potential, or benefit in reaching out to users less able to or willing to spend on a monthly subscription.   They just kill the viewing experience for me.

I wrote this not as the “industry expert” I play in my day job by rather as a consumer.   An opinionated and lazy one. Maybe a cheap one too. But one who enjoys certain movies and shows in my own way.  I am lazy when I watch TV. I choose to use that time because I want to veg out and let my brain escape from the world for a bit and recharge.   I want to be entertained but not put too much thought or effort into it. I have no patience to waste time searching. I want a common interface where I can find just what I want, and am willing to pay a fair price for just that.  We broke the cable model on purpose and I have no intention of going back. 


 

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