The Way Television Should Be

Mitch JoelPosted by

**What if television looked and acted like [Netflix](http://www.netflix.com “Netflix”)?**
Many years back, I was blogging about the future of education. If I could find the specific link to the post, I would have dropped it in here. The dream – as I was dreaming it – would be that one day, students could pick and choose courses to attend like [iTunes](http://www.itunes.com “iTunes”) (remember, Netflix didn’t exist back then). Their attendance could be physical and/or virtual. It seems to make sense, doesn’t it? You get accepted to a college. That’s the one that you physically attend, but you can take an economics course at [Harvard](http://www.harvard.edu/ “Harvard”) or a design thinking course at [Stanford](http://www.stanford.edu/ “Stanford”)… you get the drill. As consumers become much better at moving from a fixed or weekly-based schedule, to on-demand, it felt (back then) like common sense… but something that was still out-of-reach and – perhaps – out of context for the mass audience.
**Times they change.**
We’re seeing dramatic changes in how we connect to one another. In both of my business books ([Six Pixels of Separation](http://sixpixels.com/books/ “Six Pixels of Separation”) and [CTRL ALT Delete](http://sixpixels.com/books/ “CTRL ALT Delete”), I referred to this moment as *”The Great Untethering.”* We are (nearly) there. One of my favorite new data points is this one: [40% of homes in the U.S. are now without a landline](http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-landlines-survey-20140708-story.html). We quickly adapt to new technology. This is not the same length of adoption that we had with the initial Internet – when companies sat on the side-lines before adopting basic digital assets like a website and some form of search engine optimization. Today, brands struggle to keep pace with consumers, who seem to be grasping technology with no need for extensive education, beyond the now-standard *touch and go*. In my public presentations, I often refer to our current state, as a major inflection point in society when: *technology has removed technology from technology.*
**So, what’s happening with television?**
I read with interest the [MediaPost](http://www.mediapost.com “MediaPost”) article published today, [Cord Cutting Rises, Consumers Prefer A La Carte TV Model](http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/239975/cord-cutting-rises-consumers-prefer-a-la-carte-tv.html). Television a la carte. Imagine that? Just two choices: live events (think sporting, cultural, etc…) and everything else is a la carte. Yes, newer episodes of your favorite shows may be marketed as a *”moment in time,”* but the water cooler discourse dissolves into something else, because we’re all consuming television on our own schedules (like binge viewing an entire season over a weekend)… And not the desired timetables of the television broadcasters and their executives.
**A la carte today. A la carte tomorrow.**
For now, the MediaPost article (and the research behind it) suggests a higher level of sophistication and willingness of consumers to pay for specific channels. This could be cable or specialty channels. So,they’re no longer interested in, let’s say, a sports bundle, but rather specific channels. These could be related to teams, sports, whatever. It’s easy to assume where this natural selection of today will lead to tomorrow. We’re racing ever-closer to consumers wanting specific programs, and not the entire channel. This is also a topic that I have been discussing and refining in my newer presentations. We live in the *”age of brand efficiency,”* and consumers don’t have time to waste (and they don’t want any more waste in their lives). Why waste buying an entire bundle – or even a la carte channel – when there’s really only two specific shows that they would like to watch and pay for? Consumers don’t want to pay for things that they’re not going to use. This is why, those who love television, are enjoying the self-selection and usability of services like Netflix.
**It may not be Netflix.**
Who knows if everything will look, feel and act like Netflix? The point is that consumers are now being given a depth of choice – at their command – and this familiarity with it, will lead them to want the same kind of functionality from their other video-based forms of content. TV will, naturally, adapt to this. And, if you think about how television makes it money (advertising), this opens up an entirely new conversation that is going to have to take place sooner rather than later. My guess is that it’s going to be a very uncomfortable conversation.
**What’s your take on the evolution of television?**