Add another to the ever-growing list of problems afflicting streaming services (which include the proliferation of platforms, high churn rates, too many shared accesses, high costs, garbled sound, and unsustainable business models). And it might just be the most problematic of all. It’s What to Watch (or WtoW, if we want to follow the trend of using acronyms like BtoB or DTC).
Nowadays, it’s impossible to have a clear idea of WtoW on streaming services. The carousel sliders that move with the posters of the available shows don’t help. Clicking on the posters doesn’t help either because that requires reading individual show descriptions and being offered limited info. One could spend hours looking for something to watch and then… give up.
Several research studies reviewed by VideoAge‘s Water Cooler consistently reveled that in each study half of the streaming subscribers surveyed reported that they had a hard time deciding what to watch. One particular survey indicated that 37 Percent of the respondents said that at one point or another they finally gave up or selected a show at random.
The problems are two-fold. First, there are too many streaming services on the market (online publication Flied.io listed 200 such platforms). Second, there are simply too many programs to choose from.
These problems are widespread, as reported in a piece in Science Daily that explained the science behind why subscribers can never decide what to watch on streaming services. This is called the “science of indecision.”
This phenomenon was first observed in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when consumers starting to see supermarket shelves filled with multiple brands of the same product. These buyers often froze up, unable to choose between the brands. In this particular case, marketing and advertising eventually came to the rescue, allowing consumers to select one brand over another.
Advertising is also used by streamers to publicize their new original series on sister services or on TV channels that are part of the same conglomerates, but they’re meant to generate subscriptions more than provide a tool for program selection.
It is under these conditions that executives at streaming platforms have to come up with a solution. With the introduction of streaming, they are predicting the future, and so, now they have to follow American computer scientist Alan Kay’s 1971 dictum that “To predict the future is to invent it.”
One solution, courtesy of VideoAge, is to have a page on the platforms’ interface listing just the new programs (movies and original series) loaded that particular week (or month), noting the date that they dropped. Those loaded onto the platforms the previous week (or month) would be on another page (so as to avoid overwhelming viewers). Each link to a new or old title would take viewers to a description of the show, and could then, if desired, take them directly to the stream. Currently, Spectrum+ (the streaming service of the broadband provider), has something similar to the proposed interface, but it’s not as consumer friendly as it could be.
Now someone might say that this service could also be provided on a separate website and not on the platform’s interface, and that would be fine, provided that it is easy to consult, and as long as it serves its purpose.