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Why watching TV online is different from watching TV

April 8, 2008

This isn’t a comparison between watching TV (cable or network) and watching YouTube and the many clones of YouTube. That’s a whole different genre.

This is a look at the different mindset while watching Lost on ABC and Lost on

Immediately, there’s one big difference: captivity. On ABC, during a commercial, or an otherwise boring part of the show, the channel changer is a tool to break away.

Online, there’s no getting away from the show. Once started, there’s a cost to leaving because it’s not possible to jump in halfway to a show. This could change, but I think if it did it would come with a log-in, remember feature which would actually enhance the experience and turn captivity into a positive.

The second mindset is the marathoner mindset. Like DVR, watching online can be used to catch up.

Serials are a big trend these days, and for that reason, online sites are an excellent solution for “catching up”. Some of TV’s biggest shows are serials. Think of ‘Lost’ or ‘Heroes’. Even the smaller ones like ‘Life’ and ‘Dexter’ are serials. Serial shows don’t work on an episodic basis.

Even a show like ‘House’ or ‘Desperate Housewives’ asks that you’ve seen some episodes to get the most out of it. Thus, to build viewers, networks show the entire seasons online. One can get up to speed on Lost, or Heroes, or Life. Meaning, online watchers are way more likely to be marathoners, watching 2-3 episodes in one night – especially depending on the story arc.

I’ll bet with a little planning, networks could predict the shows that will demand the viewer hangs around to watch another one.

The final difference is this: watching online means watching one advertiser. That’s it. The show is sponsored by a brand, and that brand proceeds to annoy the living heck out of you by repeating the same ad over and over.

Which leads us to this: tell someone something 5 times, and they will begin to get a little sick of you. Check out Nigel’s rant about Gin. We get sick of things we hear more than three times. So why on earth do they play them five?

To recap: People who watch online are a captive audience to marketers. Serials are popular. And showing an ad five times is counter-productive.

Knowing this, I’m not sure why shows don’t try to build and promote their communities. There’s a thriving Lost community out there that ABC probably has no control over it. However, they could easily take a couple of the ad spots and tell us about it. And make it clickable from the episode! In other words, if you’re watching Episode 4 of Season 2, it could take you to a synopsis of what’s going on, or even a place where people at that place were gathered to wonder what was up with Charlie. And you could sell ads there!

Instead, they promote other TV shows during the Internet broadcast. (Dancing with the stars over and over and over and over in the case of

It makes no sense to me that they are giving away their content to me on a new medium in return for watching a different medium’s interruption advertising. I read somewhere that gets the same money online as they do on TV for their spots.

The person reporting it was impressed. To me, they should be demanding and getting more.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. mywalletmarketcom permalink
    April 5, 2011 10:35 pm

    I am using the world’s best online TV viewing software. Spend a lot of time at the computer. For this reason than to watch tv on pc software is required. Thousands of HD channels, TV shows, series, movies all in one software. I searched and really did a very good choice. Don ‘t pay cable television fees for one year. You still pay them at once and watch tv free from your computer. Once you get use to life.


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