Growing up telling mom or dad that I wanted something now, got the usual response of “you will have to work for it” or “you’ll get it when it’s ready.” Learning that good things come to those who wait was part of my maturing process.
But not any longer.
I remember when I wanted to know about something, I either had to spend some time going through our family’s World Book Encyclopedia or take a trip to the library. But not any longer, I just Google it.
I’ve been able to stream radio around the world for years, but it never became easier than when Alexa entered my world. Now, anything I want to know or hear, I simply ask Alexa, and that little genie in my Echo serves it up. My wish is Alexa’s command.
Remember when we used to have television seasons? Every fall, I couldn’t wait for TV Guide to arrive to plan out my TV viewing strategy. ABC, NBC and CBS would introduce lots of new shows every fall and it was a big deal.
Then FOX changed things up while working to become America’s fourth television network. FOX began introducing new shows during the summer, and winter break, while ABC, NBC and CBS were showing re-runs.
Now new television programs are a year-round affair. Gone are pilots, re-runs and the fall season being the only time networks introduce brand new shows.
But the most dramatic change to the introduction of a new television series happened five years ago when Netflix started releasing an entire season’s worth of shows, all at the same time. Netflix now gave viewers a choice in how you could watch a new season. You could watch on a weekly basis, watch a new episode every night, or binge watch the entire season.
Binge watching became the preferred method.
Which is why I was surprised to hear Disney+ announce that it would be releasing its new shows an episode a week. History has shown with many different products and services, that you can’t go back to the way things used to be. I wish the mouse house good luck.
Knowing Your Audience
Netflix spends a lot of time trying to understanding what their subscribers want and like. They’re adamant that releasing an entire season all at once won’t ever change. They cite two reasons for this:
- TV viewers have moved away from appointment viewing in droves, preferring to watch shows ON DEMAND, often by binge watching, and
- 2) Netflix has found that people tend to watch only one show at a time. In other words, once a Netflix viewer finds a television series they like, they will watch all the episodes of that program before moving on to another show.
Netflix knows a happy customer remains a paying customer.
Reflecting on my own Netflix viewing habits, I would have to agree that I’m hooked on the concept of ON DEMAND television viewing and when I start a Netflix TV series, I watch the entire series, usually several episodes a night, until I’ve finished it. I’ve watched Downtown Abbey that way twice now.
Radio vs Podcasting
Is there a lesson for radio broadcasters from what I just shared about television viewing habits? I think there is. Programmer Steve Goldstein puts it this way, “Traditional radio – by design – is a lean-back business. Podcasting is a lean-in business.” That perfectly describes the difference between Netflix (lean-in) and broadcast (lean-back) commercial television.
These changing media habits are not just a temporary thing.
These changes in how people want to access and use media are the future, and we can’t wish the past back, no matter how much we might want to.
Goldstein says a podcast needs to be “thumb stopping.” By that he means the listener doesn’t exit the program and move on to something else with a press of their thumb.
Because of push button pre-sets, radio stations know all too well how easy it is for car radio listeners to change stations when something they don’t want or like comes on. Today, it’s in the car where most broadcast radio listening takes place.
Sadly, radio operators aren’t acknowledging this reality in the digital world.
Matt Weiner, the creator of the Mad Men television series that played on A & E, said that if he ever approached Netflix to run one of his shows, he would try to convince them to release the episodes on a weekly basis.
It’s the same kind of thinking old timers in radio might suggest when they talk about how to make radio great again.
What would Netflix tell Mr. Weiner if he pitched his idea of releasing his programs a week at a time?
“He would lose,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s content chief.
Radio should think of this reality as its “canary in the coal shaft” moment.