In my book, Over The Top, How The Internet Is (Slowly But Surely) Changing The Television Industry, I referred to it as the “Spotifyization of Television” and it’s a description that still holds up today.
On Spotify, users can listen to whatever song they want from a library of over 50 million songs. They can listen to a playlist they’ve created or one someone else has created. Or they can listen to one of the tens of thousands of radio station-like playlists that Spotify has created, including playlists that are personalized to their unique tastes.
The channels make it easy to use TV as background entertainment, to be able to click around, find something that is interesting enough for the moment, lean back and bliss out. (Or attend to emails, dinner preparation and similarly banal tasks.)
At some point soon I suspect we’ll have personalized linear channels too, either entire pre-populated channels (“Alan’s Crime Channel”) waiting for you, a personalized YouTube-like autoplay channel once the show you’ve just watched is over, or both.
Having these lean back options is important given how much of the current Second Golden Age of TV consists of “lean forward” options–shows you’ll want to pay careful attention to and watch with no distractions. They’re the yin and yang of streaming TV.
Streaming is just a delivery system that uses the internet rather than broadcast signals or cable wire. If anything, it’s a superior delivery system as it allows for additional features like Amazon’s X-Ray, which shows the names of the actors in any particular scene. Easy enough to imagine a corollary feature that shows the athletes on any particular play.
The biggest advantage to moving linear to streaming is that it consolidates the number of inputs and allows viewers to take advantage of the ability to switch between linear and VOD at will, so that if a linear streaming channel plays a random episode of “Seinfeld” a viewer can quickly search for “Festivus” and watch that episode next.
One big caveat to all this: I wrote the aforementioned book in 2015 and much of what I wrote is still relevant today. Not because I’m any sort of genius, but because not much has changed over the past six years.