Sunday 11 December 2016

What should I cook for dinner? And what should I watch on TV?

Published 07/02/2016 | 02:30

'The decoupling of TV from a traditional schedule, the rise of Netflix and the growth in user-generated content means there’s a real opportunity to create a unique proposition around advising the audience about what it watches'
'The decoupling of TV from a traditional schedule, the rise of Netflix and the growth in user-generated content means there’s a real opportunity to create a unique proposition around advising the audience about what it watches'

If you trawl through the careers section of the New York Times' website, you'll come across details of an interesting new product for which the paper is recruiting editors and writers.

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"The New York Times is launching a film and TV recommendation tool which will help users make sense of the ever more complex streaming video landscape," reads the blurb.

"The product's focus will be service-based and distinct from the criticism and coverage in our daily report - its goals will be to help users decide what movies and TV shows are worth their limited time, and make it easy for them to find and watch them."

The New York Times sees itself as an arbiter of taste, a reliable recommender of what to read, what to watch and where to live.

Just as the site's first stab at service journalism, the NYT Cooking app and website - launched a year ago - answered the question 'What should I cook for dinner?', the new TV product will answer the question: 'What should I watch next?'

The decoupling of TV from a traditional schedule, the rise of Netflix and the growth in user-generated content means there's a real opportunity to create a unique proposition around advising the audience about what it watches. Hell, they might even be able to create commercial partnerships with some content providers.

So how radically have TV and TV watching changed?

Well, Netflix is the poster-boy for online TV watching. It's now available in 190 global markets and was recently referred to as a "global internet TV network" by its chief executive Reed Hastings.

This is a company that was sending DVDs through the post only a few years ago, so its expansion into online distribution of films and TV has been particularly impressive.

But Netflix doesn't just distribute content anymore. It makes its own programming too. This year it'll release 31 original TV shows; that includes existing shows like Orange is the New Black and Making a Murderer, and new shows, which include a reboot of the Gilmore Girls.

But Netflix isn't the only new kid on the block. There's a host of other services like Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Apple TV and others. And let's not forget illegal downloads, which are huge. Last year, Game of Thrones was the most pirated show for the fourth year running; it was downloaded 14.4 million times on BitTorrent in 2015.

But let's not get carried away with all these shiny new online options. Traditional TV is still a huge draw, especially when it comes to the likes of live sports and current affairs. Core Media's Outlook for 2016, released last week, for example, found that the average viewer now watches over three-and-a-half hours of content on the old school TV set on a daily basis.

However YouTube now commands 35 minutes of adult media consumption per day, which makes it the second most viewed video channel in Ireland behind RTE1. And digital channels are even more popular among younger Irish audiences. Children now watch more video online than on TV.

Unsurprisingly, this pattern of behaviour isn't exclusively Irish. Similar research from Nielsen in the American market suggests that younger audiences there are also watching less traditional TV. But the same research shows that declines may be slowing, and that traditional TV remains the primary video viewing mechanism for adults across all age groups.

So do these new channels for consuming content mean we need a new way of finding it, as planned by the New York Times?

Not necessarily. But here's something that does: these channels are producing more and more content. Research from MediaRedef shows that the number of new, original scripted TV shows produced in the US has increased exponentially from 2011 onwards. In 2015 over 400 such new shows were launched.

Similarly, the amount of movies released in the US and Canada per years has shot up in the same timeframe, albeit recovering from a recessionary dip in 2008 and 2009.

And it's this abundance of content, coupled with the evolving set of channels, that makes the New York Times' new product a runner.

The plan is that it will roll out in two stages; first will come a several-times-weekly newsletter; this will be followed by a full website with daily content. This staggered email-first approach to rolling out such a product has proven successful for websites like Product Hunt.

Mind you, if you don't feel like logging onto the New York Times to find out what its team of TV tastemakers think you should be watching, you could always try word-of-mouth recommendations.

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