Sunday, March 24, 2019

Happenstance TV Watching

Recently, a Facebook friend of mine posted the following update:

That moment when you spend two hours scrolling thru Netflix and Hulu looking for something to watch... half watch a few things... scroll some more... end up watching a depressing episode of Black Mirror... yeah... and then you think... I should have listened to the end of that podcast that I was listening to yesterday on the way home from work.

I'm a Gen-Xer. That means I grew up with antenna TV broadcasting three networks, PBS, and a handful of UHF channels. Here in Houston, we had only channel 39 and channel 26 until channel 20 showed up in the early 80s. Unless it was approximately one or two in the morning, all the networks broadcast material. You may have not liked what they were broadcasting, but you ended up on something.

Yes, the choices were predetermined for you, but there was always something *on.*

With on demand television, you are the network.

Yes, you don't have everything you might conceivably want, but there is so much content, you cannot possibly consume everything. One might argue that there is too much content, but that's merely a personal preference. Even back in the day, with only, say, the six TV channels Houstonians had by 1982, you couldn't watch everything on those six channels. Even with a VCR. Now with the advent of on demand TV watching--a wonderful concept especially, when two shows air at the same time--you can watch TV exactly when you want to.

But there's a trade-off.

What you don't get with on demand TV is happenstance watching. I'm still a cable subscriber so I have way more channels than I truly need. But it's always on. When I channel surf--rare these days because my TV consumption has shrunk considerably--I flick channels until I find something I want to watch. But along the way, I see all the other things being broadcast. I might note Raiders of the Lost Ark is on TBS and just stop to see what part they're up to. Or slow and see what episode of Family Ties or Friends is being shown at that moment. Or, because I'm a historian, watch a few minutes of some World War II documentary.

And I've been known to think I wanted to watch one thing, but then get sucked into something completely different just because I happened to see it was on.

You get the idea. Where there's always something on and you merely have to find it. You have the opportunity to stumble onto something you likely would not have selected had you been on one of the on demand streaming services.

Shrug. I know this is all personal preference, but my friend's Facebook post just got me thinking.

What about y'all? Do you prefer the modern on demand experience, happenstance TV, or a mixture? Despite the tone of this piece, I'm quite happy with the mixture.

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