What’s Missing From Internet TV: Accidents!

Internet TV is threatening to turn cable TV’s subscription model on its head with on demand programming and rentals, but there is a key component that’s missing: content discovery. There is still no better way to find out what’s on than to flip through channels.

Apple TV, the Boxee Box, Google TV, Hulu, Roku, and a sundry of desktop (and now mobile) applications comprise a compelling alternative to traditional cable TV service. My colleague Harry McCracken has them all pretty well covered.

I know many people who have “unplugged” themselves from the shackles of costly year-long contracts. Why pay for channels that you don’t watch? Those people are typically more technically savvy than most of the population. I just recently upgraded my mother’s 1980s big screen TV to an HDTV.

My mother and I find what’s on TV in much the same way: we channel surf or use a “guide.” There are more than a few shows that drew me in by happenstance. AMC’s “Breaking Bad” is my favorite “accident.” Internet TV is surfing with a net, keeping us in the familiar, and not venturing out into the unexplored.

Sure, Internet TV has media guides that showcase featured content, but where does that leave programs that aren’t already in the spotlight? Would Internet TV allow me to stumble onto a “Twilight Zone” rerun at 3 AM? Sometimes randomness is nice – I don’t always like to know exactly what I’m looking for.

Internet TV is better suited for enabling a user to watch what they want when they want. I’m keeping my cable, but will be buying a Boxee Box as an alternative to Time Warner Cable’s on-demand services.


5 comments

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  1. Wienke Giezeman September 29, 2010 at 2:44 am #

    I totally agree with you that this kind of content offering is currently missing from any connect TV product or service. As Chris Anderson described in his book The Long Tail is that the long tail will only be succesfully leveraged if good filtering mechanisms are in place. The filtering mechanism you are refering to is currently used by the internet service Stumble Upon. A same type of service for video will fullfill the need you are describing. Doing this is hard as extracting meta data from video is very hard. Indexing and categorizing content automatically is key for such a service and meta deta is requiered for that.

  2. fred September 29, 2010 at 3:33 am #

    Of course you can have accidents on internet TV. I think the issue is how you pay — flat rate, which encourages browsing, or pay-per-view, which discourages taking chances. Flipping through the thumbnails of the titles on Netflix on my Roku feels a lot like channel surfing…

  3. Andrew Kippen September 29, 2010 at 7:18 am #

    David – this is a place where Internet TV really has an opportunity to shine as it hopefully creates "personalized" accidents for users. We built in social functionality to accomplish this on Boxee, but we think there's a lot of promise in services that curate content and help you discover new favorites so you're not stuck watching the same thing over and over again.

    -Andrew Kippen
    Boxee

  4. Shawn Reed September 29, 2010 at 9:00 am #

    netflix + ratings have done a pretty good job for me: sent me to weeds, californication, and dexter.

  5. Richard Brodie September 29, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    I don't buy it. It's much better to take recommendations from friends or even random people than to waste time flipping through channels, especially when it's 30% commercials.