Monday, February 08, 2016

The Changing Face Of Entertainment Media

Way back when Homer's Travels had just started, I flail around a bit trying to figure out what to write about.  One early post talked about what we watched on television.  Since I am kind of flailing around again wondering what I should post about, I decided to revisit the topic.  Turns out a lot has changed since that September 2006 post.

I started by looking at what I've been watching for the past few months.  I realized soon enough that the topic of this post really isn't what I'm watching but how I am watching.  While most of the shows I watched in 2006 were network shows with a smattering of cable channel shows, what I tend to get excited about today are either purely cable channels or are not on traditional sources at all.  The biggest change in the last ten years for me has been the arrival of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streaming sources ... all connected together on our Roku box or tablet apps.  Here are a few examples of what I'm watching and how I'm watching:
  • "Marvel's Daredevil" and "Marvel's Jessica Jones" (Netflix):  These Netflix Marvel series are darker and grittier than the comics.  Netflix, like other streaming services, release the entire season (ten episodes) on the same day so no more watching one episode per week like it was done in 2006.  Now you binge watch - watching several episodes back to back to back.  I usually limit it to two to four episodes per day.  These original series are only available if you have a Netflix subscription.
  • "The Man in the High Tower" (Amazon Prime):  An alternate history drama set in 1960's America where the Nazis and the Japanese won World War II and have divided up the country.  The show is based on Philip K. Dick's book of the same name ("The Man in the High Castle").  This show is also only available to Amazon Prime subscribers.
  • "The Expanse" (Syfy):  One of the few of the shows I've watched lately that are not by subscription only.  Based on a series of books (James S. A. Corey's The Expanse Series) the show is an an interesting space opera.  I'd heard of this show but, being distracted by the game, I didn't watch it when it started on Syfy.  I ended up catching up by watching the first seven episodes on our cable system's On-Demand feature and recording the last three hours on our DVR.
  • "Mr. Robot" (USA):  This series, another cable channel offering, aired at the end of last summer - early fall.  I'd heard of it but, again, I was distracted by life and the game so I never pursued it. After catching up with "The Expanse" I decided to try to catch up on this show as well.
              I first looked at the On-Demand feature.  Only two episodes (nine and ten) were available.  When I checked a week later there was only one episode (three).  I next checked to see if there was a USA channel Roku app.  There was (USA Now) but when I loaded it up only episodes three, four, seven, eight, nine, and ten were available.  I then checked online where I found that the USA Now site listed all ten of the episode.  This would be good news but sitting in front of the computer to watch shows really isn't that comfortable (I kind of wore out my desk chair seat playing the game ... seriously I did).  I then loaded up the USA Now app on my tablet.  On the tablet all episodes were listed as well.  Huzzah!
              I ended up watching the first two episodes (and a couple more while riding my trainer) on my tablet and the others on Roku.  Why are the three different versions of the same thing, offered by the same network, all different?  Mystifying.
  • "The Walking Dead" (AMC):  I record this cable show on my DVR and usually wait until the mid-season finale before I binge watch the episodes over a few days.  I don't think I've ever watched an episode live.
  • "Marvel's Agents of Shield" and "Marvel's Agent Carter" (ABC):  The only dramas I watch regularly on the four major networks.  I rarely watch them live, instead I record them on the DVR and watch them the next day at my convenience.
  • All the so called reality shows.  The only other shows I watch on the four major networks (and a few cable channels) and shows like "Survivor", "The Amazing Race", "American Idol", and "Top Chef".  These shows are, more often than not, watched live and, amazing enough, were on my viewing list ten years ago too.  These are also the shows the Wife and I watch together.
You can see my watching habits have changed.  The idea of sitting down at a specific time in a specific room to watch a specific show feels odd to me now.  I like controlling when I watch things.  I don't want to wait a week to find out what happens.  Heck, having to fast forward through commercials using the DVR irritates me ... a side affect of not having to watch commercials at all on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

While I have a lot more control over what I watch and when, just look at all the methods/sources I had to use to watch the shows listed above.  It needs to be easier to integrate all these streams into one easy to use interface.  Wouldn't it be nice to just type in a series or movie name and have all the episodes pop up no matter the source?  The Roku box comes the closest by searching across multiple services but, strangely, does not include Netflix in their search.  Wouldn't it be nice if you were charged a single subscription giving you access to all shows and movies across all services.  Today, to do this, you need Netflix, Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Hulu at the very least.  It's still a bit of a hodge podge.

It will be interesting to see how all this changes in the next ten years. 

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