You are what you watch

 

This is the first article from my LinkedIn Series The Streaming Geek. I’m part of a Pilot Group that is helping LinkedIn launch a new Series feature. Subscribe to the weekly series and you’ll receive a notification of the new article being posted every week. Let’s deep dive into the future of tv together. 

In 2005 a book called ‘Everything bad is good for you’, written by Steven Johnson, analyzed how different TV shows impacted the human brain. The research concluded the brain was much more stimulated after watching an episode of 24 than an episode of Dallas. 24 in fact, due to the multiple threads and plot twists in the single episode, generated much higher brain activity than Dallas and therefore it had more ‘good for you’ impact than something the brain could comfortably (=lazily) grasp within the context of the single episode. Johnson’s whole argument revolves around the concept of the Sleeper Curve: how many times our neurological paths are stimulated by visual or audio triggers over the course of a single episode – a more complex plot, multiple changes of scenery and characters, and the social network of those characters being easy vs. difficult to grasp. By watching certain shows, you exercise your brain more and therefore certain TV has the power to change you – and somehow make you smarter.

Television and media in general have moved the societal needle many times towards progress. When ‘The Graduate’ came out in 1967 it was unfairly blamed for contributing to the student protests in Berkeley – as laughable as that accusation can seem now, it shows how strong the impact of a movie can be.

Before Sex and the City (which first aired in 1998, exactly twenty years ago) being thirty and single for a woman meant basically taking up residence into ‘spinster city’. Today, raise your hand if you don’t think something is up if a woman is married before thirty. Can we honestly say that show had zero impact on how women in their thirties are perceived today?

As we live our lives faster, television goes digital, becoming enjoyable anywhere and anytime. The bottom line, however, is that television maintains the predominant role it always had in the last 40-50 years. It’s just the how that is changing.

You are also HOW you watch.

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In a complex maze of ways to access content, linear tv has to contend for your attention with streaming companies, whether they are subscription based (SVOD) or free (AVOD, as for advertising-based video on demand). The war is brutal, and these companies are constantly chasing the next good move. I analyzed the different business models of streaming some time ago on my blog (link here) and in this series we will see how streaming companies are embracing multiple business models at the same time to capture all kinds of viewers. There’s no single path to success and with the market heading towards “peak streaming” one cannot reasonably expect this trend to slow down either.

This series will tackle mostly topics around the business of streaming media in the proper sense, taking also a broader look at the main drivers of the digital television industry:

  • How content is created, acquired, and distributed in the streaming markets;
  • What audience behavior tells us about the trends – taking a look at the data;
  • What market trends are gaining clout in the streaming space;
  • Are we reaching the peak streaming point? New direct-to-consumer services coming to the market in 2019;
  • How the lack of diversity is affecting linear television;
  • Why Europe and Asia behave differently from America when it comes to streaming;
  • Ad tech: why it matters so much for streaming;
  • There’s still space for live video;
  • How prices affect consumers’ perception of value and quality in streaming;
  • Tackling the big kahuna: let’s talk about Netflix.

I am happy to address any topic that might be of interest to my readers so feel free to make any suggestion in the comments section. The Streaming Geek will be out with two articles this week to kick off, then settle on a weekly cadence for each new piece. Cheers!

To all fellow movie lovers: for further reading about the unescapable generational conflict of the ’60s and how The Graduate pictured it, see here.

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