Commentary

Too Much TV Choice And Viewers Freeze Up. Netflix Helps Them Thaw

Sometimes at night, in your living room or elsewhere, you just throw up your hands, exclaiming: “I don't know what TV show to watch!”

Here’s what Netflix thinks happens next: Someone says to you: “Just pick something.”

With Netflix new “Shuffle Play” experiment in France, you have an immediate option. Just turn on your TV set and watch whatever is on at the moment.

My 94-year-old father does exactly that -- and then some. He doesn’t wait for the start of the show to begin watching. He just dives in, right in the middle, near the end or wherever.

For him, TV is the real “cool” media. By that he means the opposite of high-intensity “engagement” TV networks programmers and advertisers seek from viewers. There is no multitasking in his environment, save from a possible phone call interruption from his three children.

“Shuffle Play” is pretty much a linear TV network with shows on the loop. Your mobile phone can do the same thing when it comes to your music downloads. So the “shuffle” branding has a good, familiar feel to it.

Greg Peters, COO-Chief Product Officer of Netflix, has said huge libraries of movies and TV shows can stump Netflix subscribers into taking any action: “Sometimes … [they] not really sure what they want to watch.”

However, longtime Netflix subscribers might see this tool as yielding too much control of their viewing habits. (Who are you to choose for me?)

Netflix has always tried to address this. Scrolling through the streamer's home on-screen discovery/search program guide does give users a brief video promo sampling of what do watch.

So do we need to account for future confused and or lazy TV consumers? Sounds crazy, especially when considering how active TV consumers have been in the last few years when it comes to cord-cutting and rising new streaming services have capitivated viewers.

Here’s one factor that continues to get lost in the shuffle: A huge percentage of existing traditional pay TV providers -- cable, satellite, and telco -- also are buying three to four streaming services (subscription and/or advertising supported services). I’d call that decent general TV engagement activity.

But drilling down, this means everyone has far more choice now. No wonder a big percentage of modern TV consumers are frozen and can’t decide what to watch. My father may have an answer.

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