While perusing online video industry rag NewTeeVee, I stumbled across a report that DVR usage eats away at TV ratings by 15%-20%. I know in my household, it’s more like 95% of our household ratings. With that growth in DVRs comes a shift in the way people consume content, and specifically they’ve altered the mainstream media diet of consumers dramatically. Now, some viewers don’t look at the TV as a place to see what’s on, but rather what’s good to watch.
It’s easy to take this new behavior pattern and infer that the day of on-demand is just around the corner. I think a lot of smart folks will take that approach, and there’s some sound logic behind it. Now that consumers are willing to “bookmark” shows and watch them on their schedules, that has to mean internet-enabled TVs will lead a monumental shift away from primetime, right?
It could be the case, but rather than walk down the road that’s likely to get overcrowded and overhyped in the next six months, let me recommend starting with the road less traveled. Think about why people like TV.
Why do I like TV? Curated content, brainless interface. When I show up to my TV, I don’t actively need to search for a topic, find an actor, look by keyword, but instead I can simply show up expecting to be entertained… and guess what? I’m entertained. I simply swap between 3-4 cable networks and I can (usually) find something that catches my fancy. That’s the way it’s been for 50 years. People expect TV to entertain them without asking much from the user.
There are some smart folks taking a look at the passive entertainment experience online. For instance, take a peek at Google Reader Play. It’s a product that takes a bunch of sites online, and tries to serve you up content based on the ones you’re most likely to enjoy. Another fav worth checking out is Upl8.tv. When you show up to the site, it’s simply an old-skool rendered TV with a YouTube embedded player. Rather than leaning into the product, and selecting some category, or searching, instead the site throws a selection of hand curated YouTube videos at you, one after another. The beauty is in the simplicity: Just smash the spacebar when you get bored.
Those are two good examples where someone has ventured outside the lines, but I think content producers can take some adventurous risks without spending a ton of cash. Find a smart web developer, come up with some ways of presenting content that doesn’t look like YouTube, create it in some spare time, and find some users who will give you a shot. Worst case scenario? They don’t like it and you learned something about what people don’t like.
The reward is figuring out a non-traditional experience that users will love, and then being able to share your content in a way that connects with people. It’s not going to be easy, but the only downside is time. Try to carve some out to create a future, and your future self will thank you.