Need Help Picking A TV Show? Let The Algorithm Choose

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine from England came to visit. What she got from that trip was too much choice -- in media and otherwise.

We took her right over to a New York City-type deli after she arrived -- where she was instantly paralyzed, surveying the hundreds of possible combinations of sandwiches. When asked what she wanted, she said, "Nothing."

Finally, to keep things moving, we suggested something -- and she agreed to it. From all observations, she liked what she got.

It seems this kind of paralysis is occurring more frequently among consumers because of the sheer volume of growing digital entertainment options. People find themselves not choosing anything, just mulling.

Companies like Amazon and Netflix have already begun dealing with this issue in their own way by offering various kinds of suggestions. Some TV content providers have been doing the same, in rudimentary ways. has just signed a deal with The Filter, which started in 2004 in the music space -- and has musician Peter Gabriel as an investor. The Filter looks to ramp up this activity with more sophisticated algorithms, adding more nuance to recommendations for many entertainment areas.



The Filter might examine where someone is at a particular time and what they are doing. Perhaps finding out what one's Facebook friends are doing, or when one is apt to watch a comedy or drama - during prime time, daytime, or over time.

But more than that, it's about following click-by-click behavior.

Internet marketers continued to be tempted by this - behavioral advertising. The downside, of course, is that this is too much of an intrusion into people's lives.

But for mere straight-up TV program producers, following behavioral movements might be somewhat more welcome for viewers who find themselves staring at an IPG (Interactive Program Guide) or TiVo screen wondering what shows to watch next.

I'm not opposed to a little prompting. But perhaps a slower-moving application could be installed. This is TV, after all.

I'll pick -- whether it's salami, chicken salad, or turkey. Someone else can always take the cheese.

1 comment about "Need Help Picking A TV Show? Let The Algorithm Choose".
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  1. Suzanne Sell from Independent, April 12, 2010 at 7:05 p.m.

    We're addicted to choice in this country--and it can indeed be paralyzing. But don't dis the cheese--some of TV's most popular dishes have been heavy on the cheese, and oh so tasty!

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