The many possible futures of streaming television

Angela Water Cutter: Oh boy, I think streaming is… is it fair to say it’s broken, if not completely broken? I feel like it grew a little too fast for its own good. All of a sudden, Netflix took off and everyone was kind of like a cash cow, and all the networks and studios that had basically leased their stuff to Netflix realized, “Oh, we can just make our own thing and keep everyone there.” And then we have HBO Max and Disney Plus. And then you have people like Apple coming in and trying to start something from scratch. And it just created almost too much too quickly. And we’re getting to the point where, from my experience, if I add up all the streaming services I’m subscribed to, it’s a cable package. Like it’s like everything else.

So not broken, it just needs a lot of tweaks and a lot of, like, tightening bolts, I guess, something to get everything online. Kate, what do you think?

Kate Knibbs: Yes. I’m not going to say it’s completely broken because if I go to my Apple TV, I can select and watch any of the 20 billion shows. And in that sense it works. But I think streaming has broken our TV viewing culture, if that makes sense. Like you said, it’s completely broken now, we don’t have that common TV viewing experience we once had. Or when that happens, it’s few and far between, like the Harry and Megan Oprah Special.

I thought back to the time when I knew the whole system was really screwed up. I think it was when I was trying to figure out how to look at that. And as in the past, I could just turn on my television. And instead I googled “Harry, Megan, Oprah, how”? And it just seems like there should be a better way. So yes, I think streaming has definitely brought us into a new era of television viewing. Peak TV is dead; we are now in the age of too much TV. And we’re going to have to make some changes because we can’t go on like this. I can’t buy any other streaming service except for my house. For the sake of my bank account, my sanity. It must end.

Lauren Goode: Yes, another streaming service, in this economy? It’s a little crazy to think about. And where it used to be, “What time is the Super Bowl?” was the search. Now I’m doing the same as you Kate, I’m like where to stream, what service does X have. Mike, what do you think about this?

Michael Calore: Well, it feels like it’s all grown way too fast, I guess from a technical point of view. The cultural point of view, as if none of us were always ready for just way too many things. Because we are all a little confused right now and wondering what to watch next. But from a technical standpoint, I think it grew really too fast. And you can see that in the app experience. I guess I’m not the only one who says I watch a lot of TV and spend a lot of time on the various apps for the major services, such as Hulu and HBO and Netflix. And almost all of them have universally awful user experiences. Search is completely broken, especially on different platforms. As you said, I also have to rely on external web searches to find things that I then go to search on my television because I need to know which app to search in. And yes, there are tools like Roku that search everything, but even those are bad. But I also have sound problems, there are buffering problems that have nothing to do with my internet connection at all. There are such loud bangs and sinking problems. And a lot of things that just feel like we need to be technologically advanced, like the infrastructure needs to be able to handle right now. But it’s just, everything feels a bit thrown away and thrown together to me. Admittedly, I still manage to watch a lot of television and have no problems. But it’s kind of like your smartphone, if it doesn’t work 5 percent of the time, it’s just totally crazy. You expect it to always work perfectly.

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