The release of the trailer for House of Cards Season 2 has me thinking about how television will be released in the future. When House of Cards Season 1 was released this past year, Netflix decided to release all the episodes at once, lending the show to “binge viewing,” or watching the complete series in one or a few sittings. Of course, everyone in the industry told them they were crazy, but something must have worked, because Netflix continues to debut their original programs this way. As someone who binged his way through House of Cards, pretty much completing the entire series over the course of a week, I can say I enjoyed having control over when I watched the series.
The problem with this approach, if there is a problem, is that while the user is no longer time-bound in their viewing, they do lose some of the social aspects of live viewing. While I don’t think this is as big a problem for users at some have made out — mainly those in the industry who need live-viewing experiences to raise prices on their advertisers — I recognize that “connected viewing,” which is the act of socially sharing a viewing experience via social media, makes live-viewing an important social phenomenon. Whenever an episode of Scandal or Game of Thrones is on, I read about it in my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Social media enables people to “share” a television experience as its happening, rather than waiting to share at the company water cooler the next day.
So, if television were to move to a streaming, web-based form of distribution, how could broadcasters enable connected viewing when users are no longer time-bound?
I think the answer can be found in the video-game industry. Web enabled video game consoles have allowed individuals to play video games together, across the Internet, for over ten years. In most cases, users enter a game room where they can wait to enter the next available match or scenario with a group of other players. Users can also create their own private game room where they invite friends and family to join them. Why not create the same think for media viewers? Allow individuals to enter public, online screening rooms that begin a “screening” of a show every five to ten minutes. The user can then interact with other viewers via mobile devices or tablets while watching the program “together.” You can allow users to create their own private screening rooms to which they can invite friends, giving the user control over time, but also allowing the live-view, connected experience.
You could provide this for any program, old or new. How about watching your favorite, old Christmas movie with family who are spread across the country? What about sharing a favorite movie with a friend or loved one who is traveling? This provides users with the “connected” experience while also giving them the level of control they expect when viewing programs online. Now they are only bound by their friends and loved ones’ schedules, and not a broadcaster’s schedule.
Someone has thought of this already. I want to see it happen.
Photo Credit: from DigitalTrends.com