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Confessions of a binge TV watcher

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My name is Jenene and I have a #firstworld problem – I am a binge TV watcher. It all started about two years ago when I got really fed up with Sky TV. It was a rainy winter evening and I needed a fix of my favourite programme. On this fateful night I picked up my Sky remote control, navigated to my recorded programmes…only to find it “FULL”. I had used up all my memory and my show had been only partially recorded. Devastation, I tell you. How was I going to get my zombie fix now?

It was the beginning of a rant. Since that day I have suffered from programmes that have run over, or have moved channels or time slots and things that have simply not recorded. I have fumbled around trying to record in the future, wallowing in poor usability and crap technology. I’ve even had to fast forward ads – how very quaint. And then there’s the whole having to wait until it’s been on TV to watch it. I began questioning what decade we must be living in to put up with this kind of mediocrity. I tell you, these first world problems knew no bounds.

My anger and frustration towards the TV content providers in New Zealand became palatable. It became dinner party fodder. Given a wine and an opening and I would be off – roping in as many people as possible to join me on my crusade to force change. My disdain for them grew – the big greedy corporate fat cats barely glancing at us as they stole our money every month and expected us to live with their 1990’s decoder and lack of innovation.

My patience wore thin and I finally broke…I joined the movement turning to not-entirely-legal options…I became a Netflixer. I realise that I am not alone in this and it’s something that I will have to live with. But I could wait no longer. The FOMO is strong in this one.

The thing is, as a consumer, I want what I want and I want it now. I am demanding and I am insatiable. I knew what I was missing out on and I was not happy about it. You see, contrary to popular belief that we’re all turning away from telly, my appetite for TV hadn’t waned it had simply changed. I want it to fit in with my life; be there when I need it. Help me filter. Don’t make me wade through the epic wasteland of telly content hitting and hoping to find something good. Do the job for me. Connect me with my friends, tell me what other people are watching, make it EASY for me to discover my new favourite fix that I will binge on until I have consumed it all like a greedy little glutton.

When it comes to telly content it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. Here’s a dirty little secret that proves my point, Netflix ain’t that good. Hang on a minute; haven’t they got $3 billion budget to spend on content this year? They do, but they seem to have missed the memo on how people are finding content today.

You know how you can have a wardrobe full of clothes and never have anything to wear? It’s kind of like that. It does not matter how much there is, it is not the pain that needs fixing. The pain in content is not the volume of it; it is the organisation of it. My issue with Sky TV is not their content; it’s their crappy decoder and terrible content organisation. My issue with Netflix is about the poor search usability & recommendation tools.

I want someone to make it easy for me and tell me what is going to be worth my time. I’m “busy” and I’m not going to spend it watching things that are terrible, uninteresting, boring, unfunny, uninspiring or un-discussion worthy. I don’t want to ‘surf’ or flick channels. Give me a show that I can turn to a friend and go, “OMG I can’t believe that happened”. The water cooler rhetoric has moved to social media and I’m tweeting like a demon “#houseofcardsbestshowevermade #kevinspaceyforpresident.

But what Netflix has embraced so well is the investment in high quality programming and focus on ensuring we know about those tops ones. Without it, they are nothing. And for the record, that goes for anybody making a play in this market. You will only be as good as your content. And then you will be judged by your pricing. But content doesn’t have to be the big well-known ones – it can be obscure too. There’s so much amazing stuff out there, all people want you to do is sift it and validate it. In my newsfeed every day there is something that someone else is banging on about and their validation of this is what makes me click.

What’s happening when we discuss programmes is nothing in depth. The average person doesn’t read long reviews or synopsis’ or get into long conversations about a programme – that’s the territory of the hardcore fans, which most people are not. Influence now days is about being first to have an opinion on something.

I talk about the shows I’m crushing on right now, but let’s be clear – I don’t say much about them. TV shows have a social currency. What I watch defines how adoptive I am. I proudly state that I’m already at the end of season 2 House of Cards – what aren’t you? And only whisper to those I trust that I’m rapidly consuming Homeland and justify my tardiness to the party by stating “really, who watches terrestrial TV nowadays”.  Adoption is a form of social currency and there are those who like to be seen to be influencers. Actually, let’s be honest, everyone likes to be seen as an influencer. But there are those who pride themselves on it and position themselves very clearly as someone who knows what’s happening first. And they are called bloggers.

So in my house, I like to be the person who susses out what we should watch. What’s interesting is since we have gone “rogue” and installed US iTunes into our lives (and given Sky TV the big heave ho, wohoo!), something has happened. We’ve sat down and watched something together. It’s a team effort. We don’t watch it alone; we consume it as a twosome. It’s OUR time after a busy day and kids are in bed.

And because we’re not watching mindless programmes, but instead high quality content that is superbly written, acted, directed and shot, we have something to talk about. We discuss possible upcoming plot twists, we ponder over how things have happened and why. We have NEVER done this before. Maybe after we’ve come out of a movie. You know that moment when you debrief on what you thought about the movie. It’s like that every night. We try to limit our bingeing – with the exception of the cyclone where we got to mega binge – we want to make it last as long as possible. And no, we can’t do more than one show at once – we’re focused on this.

Getting on people’s mental ‘must watch list’ needs to be the content providers focus. We all have a mental must watch list, we’re just finishing off Homeland season 3, so next up is Game of Thrones. Then I think it will be Suits. Each of these shows has had buzz from people around me. I’ve not seen any ‘shorts’ or read anything about them. I just have had multiple people I trust tell me that it’s very, very good. It has one opportunity to hook us in – if we like it enough, we’ll keep watching. We gave up on Breaking Bad by season 2.

My parting thought on modern content delivery is this. Sky TV never, ever, ever, ever run a marketing campaign again that is focused on an outcome of the show. It may well have been popular with the people who are ‘up to’ that particular point in the series. But for the rest of us, great thanks, for the spoiler alert. You are officially that dude that came out of the movie saying, “OMG I had no idea that Bruce Willis was dead all along!”