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Consumers and Viewers Expect More From the Future of Television

The emergence of streaming has changed the way we watch TV.

AdobestockAdobestock —

Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.

The emergence of streaming has changed the way we watch TV. I know what you are thinking — thanks for the news flash, now tell me something I don’t know. But here’s the thing: The fact that streaming services are rapidly replacing the hours we have traditionally spent watching network and cable TV is only half the story.

The emergence of streaming services is not only changing what we watch and where we watch it, but it has also radically changed how we watch it. This is the news that, oddly, no one seems to be talking about. More importantly, it is the rapidly growing consumer need that isn’t being addressed. Leaders need to understand these trends and the larger implications on how they interact and cater their offers to consumers who are looking for new ways to watch.

The Way We Watch TV Is Changing

Roughly 78 percent of American households have at least one subscription video-on-demand service (e.g., Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, etc.) and, maybe more incredibly, 55 percent of Americans have more than one. So yes, streaming is big, and it has changed the way entertainment is consumed and who is providing it. But how we digest this content has also changed dramatically.

There is no doubt that many of us still like to sit back with our feet up and stare into our televisions, a fact not lost on the tech behemoths who are constantly spending and strategizing on their attempts to take control of your living room (think Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick and so on). Who can blame them? Being the gatekeeper of the living room is sure to be a treasure trove that is more than worthy of their investments.

But here’s the thing, as more entertainment hours move from linear TV to on-demand streaming services, consumers have become free to consume what they want, when they want and where they want it. As a result, more and more people are consuming their entertainment with their feet firmly planted on the floor, or at least a whole lot closer to their screen. More people are watching video on non-TV devices daily — from phones to tablets to laptops — a number that has grown considerably in recent years.

There are those who may dismiss this trend as nothing more than an outgrowth of the role our phones play in our lives, but I think there is a lot more going on here. Believe it or not, PC shipments (desktops, laptops and workstations) grew by roughly 9.9 percent in 2021 to more than 339.8 million PCs. This is more than any year since 2013 — a number that analysts believe would have been much higher if not for global supply chain disruption. Make no mistake, consumers are taking charge and redefining how they consume entertainment.

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Viewers Expect More From Their Entertainment

There are a number of reasons for this shift. One, of course, is freedom. Streaming content is available on-demand and as a result, can easily be watched when and where people choose. But there are more subtle advantages as well — those that come in the form of discovery, organization and even content consumption.

Watching TV on a TV can be a great experience. But finding what to watch, particularly in a streaming-centric world can be unsatisfying to consumers of today. You know the drill — pull up that clunky TV interface, open a streaming service, scroll left, right, down and back. When nothing scratches the itch, you quit that app and open another and repeat the same drill. Nearly 20 minutes pass by and you find yourself frustrated and putting on an episode of The Office that you have seen at least four times already. It’s not what you had in mind, but it’s getting late and you are tired of thinking about it.

Viewers are demanding more from their entertainment, which means leaders need to pay attention to the developing trends when it comes to content consumption.

Working Toward a Better Way to Watch

The industry is ripe with opportunities for innovators, leaders and entrepreneurs to craft more thoughtful watch experiences for consumers. Think about it — the discovery and organization of content can be greatly enhanced when done on the web. Consumers reasonably expect features like universal search that cut across all of their streaming content. Leaders need to understand that consumers are looking for recommendations that are personalized based on all the content they’ve watched.

Let’s not underestimate the freedom that comes from not being held hostage to one device. Consumers should be able to take their web-based experience from their laptop or tablet to their mobile phone, and with an app, even to their connected TV when they are in the mood to lean back. All of this is possible with today’s technologies.


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