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Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

The future of TV

15 May 2017


On 9 May 2017, Reuters reports that “a decline in subscribers and higher programming costs at cash-cow ESPN weighed on shares of Walt Disney Co”. A few days earlier, Bloomberg reported that “Fed-Up Advertisers Stop Paying More for Smaller TV Audiences”. On 26 November 2016, Business Insider reported that “TV shows are getting smacked by big viewership drops”.

I am not surprised by this news as it matches my own viewing behaviour. Mostly, I watch series and some movies on Netflix. Once a week, I watch the most recent episodes of my favourite series by online streaming video. My watching of traditional linear TV is limited to the 8PM news and an occasional documentary. Actually, it’s difficult getting rid of linear TV as cable companies offer it as a default option next to high-speed internet.

A TV is an in-house device without much flexibility (e.g., how, where). TV networks only offer fixed broadcasting schedules with limited flexibility (e.g., what, when). My parents’ first TV was in 1965 or so. We have accepted the constraints of linear TV for some 50+ years. Why is traditional linear TV suddenly declining rapidly?

Traditional TV does no longer fit in our hectic lives. The success of Netflix might be rooted in our ongoing quest for extreme flexibility: either nothing at all or an all-nighter of binge-watching. We no longer allow the TV networks to decide for us when and what and how to watch. The TV networks face a tough choice. I expect that they will eventually become content suppliers to Netflix etc. 

The transformation from hardware to software, from gadget to content, from buying records to streaming audio has disrupted several industries before (e.g., computers, music, telecom). The device becomes transparent, the content is unique. Automotive may be next: from owning a vehicle to a mobility subscription.

The future of TV depends on your definition of TV. TV networks will soon be “dead” and will reshape into content suppliers. The TV device may survive for some more years but feels archaic considering its limited flexibility. Future devices may either protect 2D images or 3D holograms from small portable internet connected devices, like a combination of Apple TV and a beamer. The “TV” watching experience is unlikely to end anytime soon.

The business model of Netflix is like “one size fits all” (e.g., age, genre, quality) as well as “any time, any where, any place” (1970s TV commercial). My biggest complaint about Netflix is the sheer volume of rubbish (e.g., low IMDb ratings). This complaint is similar to traditional linear TV.

The ginormous volume of Netflix content always allows for finding some pearls – unlike linear TV. Searching for those pearls is difficult and time consuming. Navigating in Netflix feels like navigating with the 1990s Netscape browser. Recently, I noticed a March 2017 article with suggestions how to unlock hidden Netflix categories.

I think, feel and believe that Netflix is like Microsoft once was: we love it until the next one comes along. Then it was Apple (Macintosh hardware, Mac OS) and Google (search engine, Chrome browser, Android OS, Chrome notebooks). I’m sure there will soon be A New Kid in Town.

New Kid in Town (1976) by The Eagles – artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

There’s talk on the street; it sounds so familiar 

Great expectations, everybody’s watching you 

People you meet, they all seem to know you 

Even your old friends treat you like you’re something new


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