Peak Channels

The research team at FX Networks famously got the industry's mind around the concept of “peak TV” -- an inflection point in which more hours of original programming were being distributed than viewers had time in their day to watch.

But thanks to a multitude of technologies, I would like to say we have officially reached “peak channels” too, because there now are more programming channel options than any viewer has time in their day to navigate through. And that is a real problem for programmers, distributors and viewers alike.

I know the concept is not entirely new. Cable industry pioneer John Malone once famously coined the concept of a “500 channel universe,” which some people scoffed at back in the day, but which now seems a quaint metric by today's virtually infinite channel universe.



Over time, the proliferation and fragmentation of channel options effectively destroyed one of the most valuable publishing franchises of all time -- TV Guide -- which still exists, but no longer is the way that people navigate content or channels.

And while TV's original gatekeepers -- the cable, satellite and telco distributors -- kept our fingers in the dike via their electronic programming guide interfaces, the era of cross-channel distribution via the internet and other platforms effectively killed that too.

I don't know about you, but I can tell you it has become a real chore to know what channel options I even have available to me at any given moment, or what programming on them I actually want to watch.

And every Friday or Saturday night, when my wife and I boot up our connected TV device/s, I usually say the same thing as I begin scrolling through them to see what I added to on my watch lists on each of them: “Somebody should invent an app that lets people keep track of what shows they want to watch and what platforms they can watch them on.”

There are other problems with the Golden Age of Peak Channels, including the fact that not all of them are seamlessly interoperable with each other.

For the life of me, I don’t understand why my Roku TV does not recognize that I am a paying HBO Max subscriber, forcing me to switch over to my Google TV doggle just to stream the latest episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher” or “The Last of Us.”

As someone who has covered both the evolution of television and video programming, as well as the user experience design, I would have to say something is seriously broken with the Peak Channels universe.

And there is a good business opportunity for someone who can fix it.

2 comments about "Peak Channels".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 8, 2023 at 12:19 p.m.

    Joe, all of which is why a lot of folks will stay with "pay TV" or "appointment TV" even if many also use streaming services. There is no need for the typical consumer to wade through hundreds---or thousands ---of possible choices to determine what content to demand every time one turns on a TV set. Sometimes, sure, but not  every time.

    And making it so difficult ---as you describe---only makes the decision to keep "pay TV" easier---especially for heavy viewing 50+ viewers who like to pre-plan much of their viewing day around a list of shows that are personal favorites---an AM news/gab show, a mid morning game show---or several  game shows---an early evening news report, a syndicated sitcom rerun, and a late night talk/variety show. OK, perhaps in prime time when  one has family or friends over to visit, one does the on-demand thing to find something special and maybe that happens at other times----periodically. But not every time.

  2. Eric Steinberg from Whip Media Group, February 8, 2023 at 4:04 p.m.

    "Somebody should invent an app that let's people keep track of what shows they want to watch and what platforms the can watch them on."

    Joe, somebody did! It's the Webby award winning TV Time app from Whip Media. You can download for free from wherever you get your apps. Given it a go!

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