Giving Up Cable, An Experiment

A friend and reader of this blog suggested I take a look at this Gizmodo article, which reviews the results of a study by an ad agency to see how five families would cope without cable. If you don’t feel like reading the article, I’ll cut to the chase: “mainstream” viewers aren’t happy with cable cutting alternatives because these devices don’t fit with how they watch television. In other words, they don’t want to have to think about what to watch.

An Experiment In Cord Cutting from Hill Holliday on Vimeo.

The main issue appears to be television’s passive nature versus the activity required to browse content, choose content, wait for that content to load, etc. Consuming entertainment shifts from flipping through channels with instant visual gratification, to searching through titles and thinking about whether it’s worth investing the time to download a show. (The video also shows some of the poor UX applications of these devices too).

I get it. These new devices don’t let people just veg. When I had cable, I would watch bad television to tune out – until one day when I found myself watching an episode of Scott Baio is Single and 45 that I had already seen. What a horrible waste of time.  As my pal Paul noted: “I can’t get sucked into watching a Cheers rerun for the 98th time. [Using Netflix] limits my tv time and increases my chances of watching something decent.”

A lot of people (outside of this experiment) complain they don’t like non-cable devices such as Netflix or iTunes because the content choice is limited, but this small study suggests it’s not about the content, but about the activities surrounding consuming that content. While these devices can learn a thing or two about usability, maybe lean back activities like television or radio aren’t going anywhere because there will always be a part of the population that needs to use scheduled TV programming as their downtime?