There must be a better way to binge


I’ve been watching TV shows and movies since the 90s. First it was running through my sister’s old VHS recordings of Doctor Who and X-files, then there was the collection and viewing of entire series of piecemeal anime from places like Sam Goody and Suncoast. In the early 2000s, companies started releasing series by season rather than by episode (for really affordable prices) and this made binge-watching shows much easier. Just go to the library to buy a season of The Sopranos was much easier than asking to borrow someone’s VHS recordings. Now, binge-watching a show is easier than ever, but the biggest gripe is that people have to binge for fear of spoilers and wishing they could savor a show that was given out episodically.

I don’t care about that. Spoilers are rarely a barrier to enjoyment for me, and I learned a long time ago how to space out watching a really good show to maximize episodic thrills. No, my problem with the current frenzy model is that it doesn’t account for shared universes and all the weird surveillance commands that may be needed. It also doesn’t account for older shows that often air in a different order than they were produced in, leading to weird story inconsistencies as characters are introduced long after they appear in the movies. emissions. And it looks like it should be an easy problem to solve.

As Netflix, Disney+, Peacock, Paramount+ and all that HBO Max and Discovery end up warring each other to become the best streaming service in the US, they are frantically focused on content. This was not how the streaming wars were supposed to be fought. The idea was that streaming would give us more choice, not just in content, but in how we watch that content. Yet instead of new ways to engage with the shows we want to watch, streaming services are focused on acquiring new franchises or pumping millions into their established franchises. The concern for the real experience seems to have taken place in the third row of the car.

This has led to odd situations such as the lack of 4K and HDR support in a lot of content on these streamers, franchises seeming to migrate between platforms without fanfare, or HBO Max continuing to offer one of the buggiest apps. Churn, where people constantly subscribe to services and then abandon them when they’ve watched the content they wanted to watch, seems to have become such an expected part of the streamer business that little is given. a focus on keeping people on the platform longer than the length of the shows they wanted to watch.

But there are so many useful little tweaks that streaming services have refused to use that I sometimes wonder if any of the people running those platforms actually use them. This brings me back to the difficulty of gorging on older content. If you want to watch Star Trek: The Original Series you can either buy it on something like Apple TV or Amazon Prime, or stream it on Paramount+. Either way, you’ll be looking in airdate order as opposed to production order or in-universe chronological order.

look something like buffy the vampire slayer or CW the flash is even more difficult. These shows often include big crossovers with their sister shows and unless you consult a guide somewhere to determine the viewing order of these crossovers, you’ll find yourself missing crucial parts of the characters’ story arcs.

“[P]the art of promise that came with streaming was a ‘better than cable’ experience that allowed for personalization and curation that creates a more intimate connection,” Julia Alexander, Chief Strategy Officer at Parrot Analytics and former Edge reporter told me. “People watch TV shows in different ways, chronologically, in release order, or thematically – but the services don’t allow for that customization, and it’s counter-intuitive to what makes streaming so great.”

This type of customization shouldn’t be a problem. It’s a very solvable problem for streaming companies because all it takes is custom playlists – a technology that’s been available for a very long time!

“Creating a more personal and intimate viewing experience increases satisfaction and makes the inherent value of a platform more apparent, which can help increase retention,” Alexander said. “As companies compete to keep customers’ attention month after month, enabling more personalized retention goes a long way – and with so little effort.”

Yet despite what should be relatively low lift, streamers didn’t. It’s very weird that you can’t choose to watch Star Trek: The Original Series in a fan-preferred order instead of airdate order which loads some of the show’s more macho and sexist episodes instead of the more cerebral episodes that have made the show so enduring. This order was selected almost 60 years ago by a group of executives who were afraid of the sci-fi series and wanted to attract people with alien women in bikinis and gods who like to fight with their fists.

The Star Wars universe is another that could benefit from playlists that allow you to watch content in the order set in the universe, rather than the order in which they were filmed. Are you supposed to watch Solo before or after The Mandalorian? Where does Obi Wan Kenobi fall against The bad lot Where Rebels or the next Ahsoka? Wouldn’t it be nicer if Disney+, instead of a Google search, could help you figure this out? Franchises like the gargantuan Marvel Cinematic Universe, the smaller Snyder-verse, and even Grey’s Anatomy, and 9-1-1 would also benefit a lot from customizable playlists.

Since some streamers, like Paramount+, already have playlists designed to mimic linear channels, playlists that queue shows in the order you prefer shouldn’t be difficult. But streamers should stop trying to see how many high-profile shows they can tap into from established franchises and start thinking about what made streaming so appealing in the first place: choice.


Entertainment

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