MediaPost (reg. req.) runs an essay on how we seem to be reaching the saturation point for the number of cable channels, and it is falling far short of the mythical 500 channels we were promised (We May Have Reached the End of the 500-Channel Universe, 395 Channels Short). But why?
Noting that the average American cable TV viewer now has 105 channels available, Merrill Lynch research analyst Jessica Reif Cohen notes they actually watch only "16 to 18" of them. That suggests, she says, that "we may have reached a point of saturation with regard to start-up cable networks."
Imagine that, we only watch about 16 to 18 channels.
What that tells me is that the whole "channel" concept is an incredibly inefficient content delivery mechanism. The search costs are far too high, for one thing. It is too much trouble to search beyond a relatively small number of channels. People stick with the few channels they know are likely to have something that interests them and not spend too much time looking through the many other options.
It sort of reminds me of "bookmarks," which was a primitive means for navigating the World Wide Web back in the day. One would bookmark favorite webpages, then check them periodically to see if there were something new and interesting. Of course, doing so was quite time-consuming and often frustrating as one couldn't be sure when there would be an update. Consequently, most would only check about 16 - 18
channels webpages regularly. Thank goodness we now have RSS, which has vastly increased the number of webpages one can check on a daily basis.
Furthermore, having to structure activity around specific broadcast times is rather inconvenient. Indeed, I imagine in the future that people will think it absurd that there were schedules for the transmission of pre-recorded entertainment and people had to conform to these broadcast schedules, instead of the other way around. Yet, because we currently have to, we are further limited in our choices to what is available during a rather limited segment of time. Yes, I know there is TiVo, but that still ties us to certain broadcast times, which unfortunately often conflict with the broadcast of other shows one might be interested in.
This whole scheduling thing has also resulted in some artificial time slots for content. Everything comes in 30-min or 1-hour packages. This doesn't really make any organic sense, but was well-suited to reducing some of the content delivery problems of the "channel" concept. What this means is that these shows are most likely wasting people's time. There might be 30 minutes of good content, but most likely there is a lesser amount of good content and the rest is just filler to meet the alloted and artificial time constraints (30-Minute Television Shows to be a Thing of the Past).
And what the heck is up with organizing things simply because there is one company selling the advertising? What the heck does Fear Factor have in common with Law & Order, other than the fact that NBC sells the national advertising for both?
Clearly, the "channel" concept as delivery mechanism is a failure. There is only one solution: The Channel Must Die!