1 Billion Online Video Channels And Nothing's On

When Bruce Springsteen sang about his cable box with 57 channels of nothing on, it was a songwriter’s hyperbole. There’s always something on, and there was even back in 1992.

On the other hand, online video offers a ridiculous amount of content, including, now, many of those cable channels, original content (cable used to call it “programming”), movies, vintage TV series and the 300 hours of YouTube content that is uploaded every minute.

Not counting that bunch of stuff, you might like to watch much of what is online, if only you knew it existed.

But finding online video is hard to do, even among the biggest merchandisers. The user interface at Netlfix and Amazon Fire are pretty horrible. Even though Fire has a really good voice activation that can locate content, it only does it for Amazon’s own library. Otherwise, it’s just as unhelpful as the rest.  

“In today's landscape, where we have not only a plethora of user-generated content, but also mounds of new and catalog content from commercial publishers, finding the best in online video can take a lot of time and effort,” complained Mashable.

And that was written five years ago.

Netflix was supposed to have rolled out a new user friendly way of finding things this month; I haven’t seen it but its imminent arrival was touted, and remarked upon on TechCrunch. “That someone had gone to the trouble to ‘fix’ the Netflix interface by way of a browser bookmarklet indicated that the online experience left a lot to be desired for many users,” a writer there noted a month ago.

There’s a kind of who-cares attitude about helping people find programming and while people do seem to be finding online videos, you have to wonder how much faster that revolution would have proceeded if somebody really cared about that particular collection of nuts and bolts.

That’s why this weekend, I’ll probably spend a few hours checking out the new TiVo Online, which allows you to sign up with your ZIP code without being a TiVo owner, and track down what’s available in your area from broadcast to online, via your laptop. "

The tools available today to find what viewers most want to watch across all sources of programs are not comprehensive, not personalized, or are difficult to use,” said Tom Rogers, the TiVo CEO in a statement, right before he started an expected sales pitch.

In fact, as Rogers goes on to say, TiVo Online is more useful to you if you are TiVo subscriber, because those people can use the TiVo DVR, the reason TiVo got into business in the first place, plus some other handy features.

Somebody, I think, will still get very rich devising a good, usable guide to online video, in some smart form. Once upon a time, as I recall, the best read magazine in this country, with a circulation of 17 million weekly readers, was called TV Guide, that also started in the infancy of a brand new medium that confused everybody.
2 comments about "1 Billion Online Video Channels And Nothing's On".
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  1. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, June 12, 2015 at 4:05 p.m.

    Brilliant... When I did consumer research into satellite distribution in the 1990s, consumers scoffed at 200 channels because..."I already have 70 and can't find anything I want to watch on Friday nite. Why would it be any different with 200?"

    That said, I'm a skeptic about tech solving this. I think we are up against a fundamentally human problem - interest and appetite. 

    Today, tech is limited in human things... (Partly because, as someone who spent 10 years in the tech biz) it is dominated by engineers and not people who have deep human insights.)

    So how could we crack this? I don't think we can. Clearly keywords and tags are entirely insufficient. Human groupings of like people is already being pursued. But I find it really doesn't work well - somehow even though we watch similar things sometimes...that doesn't translate too well the majority of the time.

    To me it comes down to human irrationality. Why might I choose to watch "When Harry Met Sally" one night, Avengers the next, and Brazil the following? Because I want to and I'm not going to try to figure out why.

    That said, I wish TiVO Online well (they deserve a run away success after failing to get across their real value for a decade or so). 

  2. Deg Farrelly from Arizona State University, June 15, 2015 at 5:39 p.m.

    True for mass media viewing.... even truer for the online content in academic libraries!  "Survey of Academic Library Streaming Video", (Hutchison & farrelly, 2013) shows that nearly 25% of academic libraries do not catalog ANY of their streaming video.  A currently running survey (still open for responses) shows that has changed, but still reports a figure around 15%.

    "Findability precedes useability.  You cannot use what you cannot find."  Mark A. Greenfield, University at Buffalo, 2010.

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