You really stumped me this week. I thought this would be an easy question, but I’ve already abandoned two drafts. The recommended articles weren’t much help either. The one in the New York Times was good but nothing I hadn’t heard before, and I didn’t care for the one in MediaPost (more on that in a minute.)
In attempting to define what constitutes a show, I found that I have an opinion but it’s yet another relic of an opinion and doesn’t do much for thinking creatively about web programming. So I thought rather than ramble on, trying to rationalize my dinosaur self, I’d just list a few of my viewing habits and see who’s with me.
1) If I’m viewing content, I’m likely sitting in front of my high-definition TV.
2) The content I’m viewing is likely an original broadcast or cable program.
3) I prefer to watch my commercial content using my DVR so I can fast-forward through commercials, but ONLY because Windows 7 will record HD.
4) I love Hulu for catching up on stuff I’ve missed, but I prefer to watch it on my television. I reserve viewing on the computer for emergencies only.
5) Netflix Watch Instantly is also a great feature, but I wish they had more current content available.
My husband spends a minimum of 15 minutes each day watching content on his computer. I doubt I spend 15 minutes a week watching content on my computer. I usually catch whatever has gone viral, but I’m not seeking out content. I don’t want to wade through the crap.
For a while I was really excited about the availability of webisodes and other behind-the-scenes footage of my favorite TV shows, but that wore off about as quickly as the novelty of DVD extras.
I think the hoopla surrounding the short-attention-span generation is silly. Are we really measuring attention-span based on how long kids will sit in front of a glowing rectangle? The New York Times article and other articles I’ve read hit the fat nail right on the head when they note that if the storytelling and production values are good, people will stay with the content until the end, no matter the length. Now that people have accepted computers as a viewing platform, the only obstacle to keeping viewers in their seats is the content.
And speaking of measuring, the MediaPost article recommended measuring online viewing (in a specific way) to determine the most watched “show” on the internet. I’ve been working on a ratings project for a local station for the past couple of months, and I know that the unique challenges of measuring audiences in the digital age are a big part of this program, but try as hard as you like, you just can’t get me to care about numbers. I understand, I empathize, I sympathize, but I don’t care. I care about the art that goes into making a good television program or movie. And generally whatever I’m watching is critically-acclaimed but hanging by a thread. So why would I care about numbers, whose only purpose it seems is to ensure that shows quality creative shows like Arrested Development and Pushing Daisies are thrown away in favor of mind-numbing event television like The Bachelorette and American Idol.
Television is a finite resource with space for only so many programs. The web is infinite. If content is indeed moving to the web, please, let’s not rely on meaningless and forgettable numbers to dictate content. Just let content be. Find another way to make money. I know you can do it.