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Too Much of a Good Thing

Sometimes too much of a good thing is not a good thing. My wife and I recently wanted to watch a movie when we found ourselves with about two hours between car pool sessions. I was interested in action or comedy, she wanted a drama or perhaps something we had missed in the theaters. We’re fortunate to be blessed with a wealth of choices: HBOGo, Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts, not to mention our Fios on demand subscription.

The result of all those options? It took us more than 45 minutes to pick our movie (Sleeping with the Enemy with Julia Roberts). The protracted search effort ate into our limited viewing window. Instead of a relaxed experience we had to pause for car-pool duty, spoiling whatever mood this decidedly non-romantic thriller might have presented. 

“Why isn’t this easier?” 

Not unexpectedly, I am not the only one with this question. At the recent Next TV Summit it was apparent that the debate about the future of television is still raging. There was one near universal point of agreement among the many speakers and guests at the conference and it was that the filter is definitely “broken,” as pointed out by Clay Shirky of NYU as far back as 2008.   

I agree. In fact, I suspect that we binge view content simply because good content is so hard to find. When we find something at all palatable, we cling to it like a life raft for as long as possible.

Yes, Netflix has its recommendation engine. HBO's executive VP of technology and chief digital officer Diane Tryneski says one is on the way for HBOGo. Each of those are fine, but neither solution addresses the scenario that my wife and I, as well as millions of others, experience daily: there’s no holistic way of searching across services. 

A killer app would know what cable and OTT service I subscribe to, learn over time what I like and make recommendations which align with my tastes, mood, or other conditions. Ideally such an app would allow me to express interest in a movie currently in theaters too, then alert me when it becomes available on one of my services.

From the consumer’s perspective, it is almost astounding that this does not yet exist. For a more business-minded perspective, consider Jonathan Murtaugh. The head of film & television for Facebook/Instagram, two companies that have more insight into what makes their audiences tick than just about anyone, expressed to the Next TV Summit audience that content discovery may be the single biggest opportunity in TV.

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