It’s Monday, and one of my little treats on Monday evenings, prior to football, is watching Gotham. It’s a prequel to the Batman story with which most of us are familiar. As a subscriber to the philosophy that one should always be Batman, it’s must-see TV for me. Unfortunately, last Monday, I was engaged in a client phone call and couldn’t watch the show. In an on-demand world, that’s really not a big deal. In addition to the on-demand service my cable provider offers, I am a Hulu subscriber. Catching up on the missed episode happened the next night, and while I was watching it a little light went on. I’d like to share my thought with you and see what you think.
My former colleagues in television bemoan the shift of viewing to streaming sources. They think it has to do with convenience or maybe with some cord cutting. That may be true, but as I was watching Gotham, this is what dawned on me:
Gotham on Fox – 60 minutes. Gotham on Hulu – 33 minutes.
We wonder why people are watching alternative sources? Its’s the same reason people use ad blockers. It’s a faster, less cluttered experience. The thing that drew us to whatever we are doing is constantly being interrupted. Ads are not why we watch. They’re our part in the attention/value exchange. Unfortunately, that equation has become unreasonably weighted to broadcast and cable television providers, who are making excessive demands for our attention. If I can get my Batman fix in half the time, the few bucks a month that it costs is well worth it.
Having been a publisher as well as involved in broadcast programming, I understand the pressures for monetization. The problem now, however, is that the uniqueness of nearly every channel has been stripped away. The content that made a channel unique is everywhere, and in general, consumers will access that content with as few distractions as possible. Annoyed consumers will seek out channels that are less annoying.
It’s not just TV. If site A offers me news or scores or stats with a healthy dose of auto-start video, pop-ups, and full-screen takeovers, I can assure you that I’ll find a site that offers that content in a less-monetized environment. If I can enjoy one of my guilty pleasures in half the time, why wouldn’t I? Hulu and Fox both show ads, both show promotional spots, and both show the same program. Fox, obviously, chose to show a lot more non-program material. That may have paid their bills in the near term, but in the future, I’ll be watching on Hulu, so I guess it ultimately was a bad choice.
Why are people moving to other channels? Do you really need to ask?