5by5 | The Critical Path #72: Bingewatch

We take on the future of TV again, given the developments and experiments hitting the news. Hanging in the air like a big matzah ball is the question of a catalyst to bring long form video to the age of software. Not just digital production and distribution but an integration of software into the product itself. We get there via a quick recap of Asymconf California.

via 5by5 | The Critical Path #72: Bingewatch.

Show Notes & Links

  • Matzoh balls hang in the air?

  • Niranjan

    Every time when someone says that they will happily pay for an individual episode of a popular tv series (or a hit movie) if it is available easily (Through apple tv or any other means), I would like to know how much are they willing to pay for that. For example, if you take a popular series Seinfeld (180 episodes) and price it. If it were to equate the same amount that it earned through the TV – how much each individual episode would cost if it were to be available to buy individually(without ads)? (I suspect it would be way higher than what anyone would be willing to pay).

    • Looks like it’d be a deal at $.99 an episode. The problem I see with using Seinfeld as a lens is it was an outlier mega hit that peaked before the internet really caught on.

    • That said, your point is important. Advertising and TV have been happily married for a long, long time, and the relationship has produced a lot of great children.

      I think some combination of monthly-fee ‘packages’, cheap unit rentals and more expensive purchased episodes/seasons work as a general framework. The problem is how disjointed it all is.

      Between iTunes, Hulu and Netflix the current aTV ‘does the job’ for my wife and I. But its often frustrating, confusing and ugly. Wrapping it all up into one cohesive experience is a big challenge.

  • This was an excellent episode. Really bang-up job. So many facets to explore all at once I think that Moises might be right about a 6-hour episode being in order.

    Horace, I think your fondness for WWII documentaries is an excellent lens to focus on the matter of ‘niche’ content. And Netflix’s House of Cards is an equally useful lens for examining the carefully crafted collection of compromises required to produce a hit.

    The way I see it, House of Cards meets the salient qualifications to be viewed as an app. Its available only to subscribers. It works on any device the customer chooses. It lives inside the Netflix mega-app and Netflix can interrogate it for data about viewer behavior. It can be consumed in the same small niches of time that you’ve discussed before.

    Also, thanks to the drop-it-all-at-once release means anyone with 13 hours to spare can eat the matzoh in one bite if they choose.

    By releasing a 13-episode season all at once, Netflix is selling HoC for a fraction of what it would cost were episodes doled out once a week week. Instead of dragging customers through 3,4, (or lets be honest) 5+ months to watch a full season, we are given a great deal of freedom in consumption. No skipped weeks, no hiatuses, no half-seasons, no machinations.

    Those with busy schedules, highly context sensitive value-of-time, and compelling alternatives (that is to say, everyone) have big opportunity cost questions to ask themselves when consuming content. Choosing to marathon through a show or to sip it slowly is a decision about opportunity costs and individual, social and even family values.

    I think much of the handwringing in the press over Netflix’s approach is misplaced.

  • BoydWaters

    While your comparison of today’s TVs to 1970’s dumb terminals is well taken, DVDs and Blu-Ray specs are full of “interactivity” features that no one wants. Isn’t the Blu-Ray menu system implemented in Java? Doesn’t the DVD spec include multiple camera angles that you can select on-the-fly?

    Of course, the whole paradigm — add 24 more useless buttons to the remote control, fool the proles into re-purchasing content via yet another physical media (and media player device) — that whole abusive, relationship is what is prime for disruption.

    But I would suspect that the executives in charge of traditional content creation see the failure of DVD and Blu-Ray interactivity, of CD-i before it, as contradicting this new gospel of “app-ification”.

    And I bet that *they* recall dumb terminals just fine.

    • The situation reminds me of Jobs’ thoughts on enterprise-focused companies:

      “The people that use the products don’t decide for themselves, and the people that make those decisions sometimes are confused.”

  • BoydWaters

    Conspiracy theory: $AAPL price is being manipulated in order to make it easier for competitors to poach Apple’s talent.

    (but seriously – how does a stock price like this affect the ability of an enterprise to obtain the best of the Bay Area’s engineers? I started my career there, and such abstruse concepts provide yet another thing to worry about as you sit in traffic on the Newark side of the Dumbarton Bridge…)