Timeshifting As The New Default

Timeshifting is the new default for how we consume content of all varieties. I’ve been thinking about how this has become standard in my own media habits. I can’t remember the last time – save for a few livestreamed tech industry events & the debates – I viewed media on someone else’s timetable (I haven’t paid for cable TV in more than 5 years).

And why should I have to? There is a high cost of now associated with doing anything on someone else’s schedule. Your time is the most precious resource you have and in a world with more content than you can possibly consume in one lifetime, it’s not just what you view, it’s when you view it that matters. This is a pillar of the attention economy.

Google Play, YouTube, Amazon Instant, iTunes, Hulu, Netflix and similar services understand this well. A recent trend here I think is especially interesting is the investment in, production and release of a single series at once. It respects consumers and the current technology available as opposed to the old guard still attempting to hold your attention hostage for 30-minute timeslots in order to push random / irrelevant advertisements at you. Not to mention it is also really great to ‘pay for what you consume’ as opposed to subsidizing a bunch of channels you do not wish to receive.

The latest example of investment in original content is House of Cards on Netflix which I sampled this weekend. The production quality and acting was as strong, if not better than anything the large networks produce. And interestingly enough it’s not just respectful to your audience, it’s also seen as higher value.

GigaOm has an interesting analysis of benefits platforms receive by getting a greater share of our time, on our own schedule, through tactics such as releasing a series all at once:

With analog channels, consumers associate value with the plastic, celluloid, and newsprint that are mere containers for the content itself. (The value of television programming, too, is clouded by distribution considerations.  If the cost of the “dumb pipe” is stripped out, video content fees would become transparent.) Consumers will have an easier time making CPH (Cost per Hour) calculations when they pay for zeros and ones separate from paper and pipes.

The chart below shows a few sample CPH calculations for selected channels for U.S. consumers (figures taken from a variety of sources and are meant as illustration).

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Consumers recognize value and while Pay TV still (surprisingly) still gets the lions share of consumer hours, the CPH of digital is just so higher value. Even with the fact that I do not have cable, my Netflix subscription plus Google Play and Amazon Instant movie downloads doesn’t touch the price that cable would cost (and I’m far more entertained). More and more of my peers live similarly. Paying for the whole buffet when you only want a salad is absurd.

Timeshifting as the default is not only a harbinger of things to come, it’s also a current divide of connected, technology-savvy audiences vs. those who still live in a world running on other people’s schedules. It goes beyond “cable cutting” which is a funny analogy to me because it infers my generation actually paid for it at one time. Many of us never did but are actually now more than willing to pay for media as it’s finally catching up to technology and we can consume a-la-carte, when we want.

You have 30,000 days to live. Are you spending your precious, limited hours on the planet on someone else’s schedule? Still paying for stuff you don’t watch? Why?