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  • feedwordpress 19:56:45 on 2021/10/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , , OTT, , streaming, television   

    Why Is The Streaming Experience So Terrible? 


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    I wrote this for P&G’s Signal360 publication, but I thought I’d toss it up here as well. I know I’ve been very, very absent from writing for – well, for the entire pandemic. I plan to change that, but for now, here’s a mini-rant (I could have gone on forever) about the state of the television experience for us cord cutters out there. 


    I can’t believe I’m about to write these words, but…I kind of miss cable TV.

    Now before you pile on, I know. I’ve lost no sleep over cable’s slow demise. The consumer experience was…not great. We paid for 500 channels of dreck, but watched, on average, five of them (or something like that). Decades of regional monopoly gave cable television scant reason to innovate — resulting in legendarily bad customer service, instantly out of date hardware, and utterly inscrutable remote controls (admit it, you could never find the mute button, could you?!).

    Streaming was supposed to change all that. The great unbundling meant consumers could choose which channels they wanted, and we’d all save money. Just as it did with music, technological innovation promised to reinvent a stagnant industry. We’d get all the wonderfulness of great television combined with the ease of the open internet! I for one couldn’t wait for it all to materialize.

    Until it actually did. And it was…exponentially worse.

    If you’re like the majority of American consumers, you probably cut the cord in the past five years. If you’re under 30, you likely never had a cord. When I dumped cable, I was instantly giddy. My $200 bill disappeared, replaced by $25 for YouTubeTV (so I could get sports and news, naturally), and a handful of $5-$10 additions — Netflix, Showtime, HBO. It was infinitely better, and less than half the cost. Sure, I had to juggle a few services, and not all of them played well with my Google Chromecast (my preferred way of getting TV programming from my phone to the big screen TV), but it was worth the effort. I was a trailblazer!

    Four years’ worth of “tech innovation” later, my television experience is a nightmare melange of competing tech and media platforms, none of which play nice together, and all of which are incomplete. Oh, and the bill? It’s back at $200 again.

    How’d we get here?

    First off, YouTubeTV is now $65 a month. That’s some impressive price leverage! Add $5 for Apple, $18 for Netflix, $15 for HBO Max, $8 for Hulu, $11 for Showtime, $20 for MLBTV, and another $50 or so for a bunch of other channels — and, well, now I’m paying the same price for an inferior experience. Want to watch a show? First remember which service it’s on, then remember your password, then navigate an entirely non-standard user interface to find the show, then cross your fingers and hope the platform supports streaming to your device of choice. If it doesn’t, you might just end up watching the show on your phone. ON A PHONE!

    And don’t get me started on those “smart TVs.” LG, Sony, Samsung, Google, Vizio — the whole lot of them have infected what used to be a simple piece of glass with impossibly complicated bloatware that has one goal: Locking you into their ecosystem. It’s madness.

    But guess what’s even worse? Yep…the ads. Remember how streaming was supposed to make the commercials better? Tailored to your interests, unobtrusive, data-enriched? I edited a cover story for Wired about all of this — in 1994! 30 years later, our industry still hasn’t figured out how to manage reach and frequency in a connected world. And from my own experience deep in the bowels of the connected television industry, this problem won’t be fixed for a long, long time.

    So let’s review: Compared to cable, streaming television has 1. A far worse user interface 2. Little to no cost advantage and 3. A far worse advertising experience — for both consumer AND advertiser. In fact, the only thing that has gotten materially better — and this is absolutely true — is the television programming itself.

    So how might we fix this mess? Well, if I could wave a magic wand, I’d start by creating an open, neutral protocol to which all streaming services adhered. This protocol would allow any and all streaming services to bundle their content with their business model (subscriptions, advertising, distribution policies, and the like). Anyone could then take that protocol and build what I call a “meta service” around it. Entrepreneurs would compete to build aggregate services which solved the consumer experience problem — which by default would also solve the  marketers’ problems as well. Imagine: one place to find all your television, with one interface to rule them all. Kind of like cable used to be — but better.

    We have the technology, we have the design chops, and we certainly have the content. We just need to get out of our own way. Come on, television industry: Let’s fix this mess!

     
  • feedwordpress 01:01:33 on 2016/01/11 Permalink
    Tags: , , streaming   

    The Streaming Conundrum: Forgetting What I Heard 


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    The post The Streaming Conundrum: Forgetting What I Heard appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.56.22 PMOnce upon a time, I’d read the yearly lists of “best albums” from folks like Rick Webb or Marc Ruxin, and immediately head over to the iTunes store for a music-buying binge. Afterwards, I’d listen happily to my new music for days on end, forging new connections between the bands my pals had suggested and my own life experiences. It usually took three to four full album plays to appreciate the new band and set its meanings inside my head, but once there, I could call those bands up in context and apply them to the right mood or circumstance. Over years of this, I built a web of musical taste that’s pretty intricate, if difficult to outwardly describe.

    About two years ago, I started paying for Spotify. Because I’d paid for “all you can eat” music, I never had to pay for a particular band’s work. Ever since, my musical experience has become…far less satisfying.

    Last night, for example, I had a small gathering at my house, and I wanted to curate a playlist for the evening. My house is set up with a Sonos system, which is connected to my iTunes library, as well as Spotify and various other apps. Before I stopped buying music on iTunes (or ripping CDs into iTunes), it was super easy to set a Sonos playlist: I’d just review my iTunes library on Sonos and toss the tunes into a queue to be played. I’d usually chose recent music to play — curating a playlist is a chance to demonstrate your musical taste, after all, and that changes over time.

    But now that I use Spotify, I realized something rather distressing: I can’t remember the names of most of the bands I’ve listened to over the past couple of years. That made creating a new playlist near impossible — my guests had to endure a musical set that would have felt fresh had the year been 2013.

    I know Spotify has robust playlist creation tools, and I know I’m supposed to adapt to them, and learn how to create value on the Spotify platform. But the ugly truth is I lean on Spotify’s “Discover” feature, and its attendant algorithms, to suggest all manner of new music for me. I listen to it, but I’ve lost the recall signal which allows me to create a good playlist.

    For me the most important signal of value is an exchange — I pay the band for their music, the band gives me rights to own and play that music. Streaming has abolished that signal, and I’m feeling rather lost as a result.

    Perhaps I’ll go back to simply buying music on iTunes, but that feels like going backwards. Streaming is here to stay. However, I’m guessing plenty of folks have run into this issue, and might have a suggestion for how best to address it. So LazyWeb, I ask you: How do you ingest music and give it meaning in a streaming world?

    The post The Streaming Conundrum: Forgetting What I Heard appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

     
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