TV: Morsels vs Streams

For a long time I’ve been thinking about the morselization of the web – the break down of the mogul-minded content consumption of the early media world into the fragmentation of our media experience of the last decade.

When I lived in Finland, I mostly did not have a TV (only had it for FIFA World Cup games), listened to radio only in the car, subscribed to the Economist (only print pub I read), rented movies from a store and then from iTunes, was very much online for news and connections to friends and family. So, by nature, my interaction with media was fragmented, episodic.

When I returned to the US, the change to this mix was that I signed up for cable (for sports and Comedy Central, mostly), but insisted on a DVR. This meant that our interaction with TV continued to be in morsels selected and controlled by me and on my time.

Continuous drivel
Needless to say, with so many years away from old skool TV, I no longer have the complacency to let TV producers decide when I should watch something (though I am forgiving of sports broadcasts).

And what really bugs me are the all-day news programs, like CNN or CNBC, who need to fill huge chunks of hours (up to the max 1440 minutes, even) of streaming video with something. Anything.

Visiting my parents is frustrating, as my father is wedded to his news shows, starting at 4pm going to midnight. As my mother says, “When it comes to ‘Last word with Lawrence O’Donnell,’ his last word should just be ‘Good night’ as everything that can be said has already been said.”

My father loves to visit me, though: he can watch his programs when he wants to and we can pause and discuss what’s been said, fast forward through commercials, even rewind to hear commentary again. He gets it that the experience is his to choose.

Airports, the last bastion of CNN
CNN is the offender that I keep coming back to. After years of feeding the beast, the best they can offer is vapid commentary. What could fit in an hour gets extended to the whole day. And it is delivered as if there is always someone watching.*


The future of TV is on-demand, morsels, episodic viewing.

Netflix has it right – just release the whole season at once and let folks decide how to watch it – either 22 episodes at a go, or over man weeks, or next year. Oh, and you didn’t miss anything of the first season, just watch it before you start the second season. YOU are in control!

The realization
The whole point of this brain wave was not to state the obvious: The future of TV is on-demand, morsels, episodic viewing. But, I couldn’t figure out why TV like CNN and the evening news have been bugging me.

They bug me because their content and delivery are premised that we are passive consumers of a continuous stream of video that we need to adjust our lives to.

Nope, we are in control, get to decide what we want and when and how.

CNN will remain the butt of Jon Stewart’s jokes for as long as the ignore this.



*My daughter was telling me last night that at the Correspondent’s Dinner, Obama cracked a joke that MSNBC (or was it CNN?) was overwhelmed with the audience at the Dinner, as it was the largest audience they’ve ever seen. Good one.


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