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Monday, July 30, 2012

A prediction regarding virtual TV channels

I'm going to try making another prediction. This one is about television, or whatever we'll call the equivalent technology which replaces television, if appropriate.

Right now, if you have some kind of multichannel provider, there is always that situation where something is probably "on" right now. It might be yet another showing of Scarface, or the Back to the Future films (or even just one of them), Office Space, and so on. Even if you only liked one line out of a movie (Scarface comes to mind), if it's coming up, you'll probably stick around for it.

I suspect everyone has their own personal list of movies like this which are worth checking out for the hundredth time, even if it's already 45 minutes in, and maybe even if it has ads. Some of them are just that good.

So here's the "problem" with the modern world. As we move away from the firehose model of having multichannel providers streaming things at us continuously and into the world of "everything on demand", the possibility for a chance encounter with a movie or show on your list goes away. After all, if nothing is playing until you explicitly request it, there's nothing to see until you ask for it.

That means actually having to think about what you want to see, and sometimes you just want to flop down and turn off your brain. How can you possibly do that if you're forced to choose something from a gigantic scrolling list of every movie they have? That list will only get larger with time, too.

This brings me to my prediction, then: in the future, even though there may not be "channels" the way we know them now, and even though all content may be started entirely on demand, someone will create virtual channels to replicate the experience. You'll be able to see a guide with a decent number of things which are "playing", all with different offsets.

The tricky part here is that none of them are actually playing. It's just a bunch of things picked from your library which you might find interesting that have been dropped into a totally ad-hoc schedule. When you select something, it just jumps to the right offset and starts playing from there.

Some movies are good for repeated viewings if you don't have to sit through the first 10 minutes of exposition since you've seen it before. You could start it from the beginning and fast forward, but that's annoying. It calls too much attention to your lack of amusement with that part of the movie.

For this reason, I propose that jumping into certain movies "already in progress" may actually be more enjoyable for the average viewer than just having to start from the very beginning. Sure, it might seem counterintuitive at first, but I bet there's more than a little truth to it.

There it is. Let's see what happens.