Interview with a TV addict

December 4, 2008

I’ve been posting about TV addiction lately and in my efforts to find people who are addicted to TV, I came across such a unique example that I had to dedicate an entire post to her story. Her name is Xochitl Garza, though her blog readers know her as Equis Buffy. Her daily posts about TV can be found at her blog, You Have No Messages: The Story of My Life. How I found Xochitl (Aztec for “flower,” her name is pronounced So-cheel) is its own story, but suffice it to say that this is one addict who is clearly not in denial. In a recent interview, she answered some of my questions about what it’s like to be an addict:

How many hours of video do you think you watch in a typical week? I usually watch about 30 hours of primetime TV. I have three daytime programs (“Martha”, “Oprah”, and “ General Hospital ”) that air 5 times a week but I do not necessarily watch each episode. So on top of the 30 hours of primetime I probably have an additional 10 hours of daytime TV that I watch.

How do you break down that viewing: live, DVR, online, anything else? I would say at least 95% of that viewing is DVR. I rarely watch live TV anymore but there are times when it can’t be avoided. Like when I’m home sick or on the weekends if there is really nothing else to do.

How important is it to you to share your watching with others? There are some programs that I watch that I never find myself discussing with others like “Samantha Who” or “The Mentalist”. These are the types of shows that any viewer can start watching mid season and never feel like they are missing any crucial portions of the plot. Then there are other programs such as “Heroes” or “Lost”. As soon as the credits roll I am bursting at the seams with anticipation. I can’t wait to discuss all the twists and turns, the questions that have been answered and the new theories the episode has spawned.

How important is that impulse to share in your choice to blog about your shows? I decided to start blogging about TV this past summer. When I noticed how many emails I was sending each week to my family, friends, and co-workers on the subject of TV. Everything from a weekly recap of specific shows to which programs may or may not have been canceled. I figured instead of generating a distribution list for all the fans of “Gossip Girl” and a separate one for “30 Rock” I might as well put all this information in one place.

What’s the best way to tell whether someone is addicted to TV? I would say the same way you would gauge any other addict. If it starts to interfere with other aspects of your life then it has become a full fledged addiction. If you find yourself spending the first hour of your workday online trying to get spoilers for next week’s episode of “Fringe”. Or if you’re skipping your niece’s birthday party because you want to watch the season finale of “Grey’s Anatomy” live then you are an addict.

Is it necessarily bad to be addicted to TV? The name of my blog is You Have No Messages. I always use to tell one of my sisters that if I ever wrote a book it would be called You Have No Messages: The story of my life. The same sister thinks that the vast amount of time I spend watching TV might be the reason for the lack of voicemail I receive. I think it has more to do with getting older and priorities shifting. Instead of going out every other weeknight and every weekend I like to spend more time at home these days. The more time I spent at home the more I learned to enjoy TV. TV has not completely annihilated my social life. All of my friends will tell you that not only am I a walking TV Guide but that I also throw the best parties this side of the Mississippi. I feel my life is well balanced. If TV consumes all of your life then I would say it is a bad thing.

What would someone have to pay you for you to watch no TV/video for a whole week? How much more would they have to pay you to get you to promise not to go back after the week is over and catch up on your shows via DVR or online?  I’ve thought long and hard about this one. There are a few different variables I have taken into consideration when determining my answer. If the week is during November or February (two out of three sweeps months) the amount would be $5,000. If the week takes place any other time with the exception of May, the amount would be lower, $1,000. It would take an additional $1,000 in both situations in order for me to not be able to go back and catch up. As for the month of May I’m going to have to say now way no how. Not with the possibility of missing an excellent season finale. I thought back on episodes that I could have possibly missed in years past such as  The Gift from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” The Telling from “Alias,” Everyone’s Waiting from “Six Feet Under,” or Leave It to Beaver from “Veronica Mars.” I would have never forgiven myself if I had only had a verbal recap of any of these episodes instead of getting to witness them myself. Who am I kidding for a cool million I would practically do anything.  

There are many gems in Xochitl’s story. One of the most telling tidbits is that she knows the names of the episodes she’s referring to. At a more intriguing level, what she says about balancing life and TV is particularly important. Contrary to the image of the couch potato sitting for hours on end in front of a flickering screen, today’s TV addict is an engaged, socially connected viewer who wants to talk about TV with others and engage them in the conversation. Xochitl is an example of a more empowered addict, a viewer who can veg with the best, yet hang with her peeps at the best parties “this side of the Mississippi.” One tool that helps her do this is the DVR, but the Web also plays a role in not only the viewing but in building the conversation. This may be one addiction that gets healthier as technology improves it.

Does Xochitl’s story resonate with yours? 

Advertisements

Are you addicted to video?

December 4, 2008

It’s a question that is becoming more and more relevant lately. It turns out that when we are given more ways to watch our favorite shows, we don’t just “time-shift” as so many have suggested. We also time-overload, meaning we watch a whole lot more video than we did before. Nielsen has been showing us over the last two years that as people add DVRs, they end up watching more video per day. ABC and NBC have publicly shared the results of their private research which reveals that as people have the Internet as a way to watch favorite shows, overall viewing goes up.

Face it, America. You are addicted to video.

I’ve tackled the question of why we’re addicted to video in various forums. In some of my conference speeches I’ve discussed the human brain’s preference for moving visual stimuli — it’s a survival mechanism we evolved over millions of years. I got on the phone the other day with a reporter who wanted to understand the future of video. Soon she found herself stuck in a heavy conversation about how neurons work. She didn’t expect it to go there, but it does. We are hardwired for video.

For the past few weeks I have undertaken a few experiments on the question of TV addiction. As I’ve posted before, I asked a Web 2.0 marketer, John Johansen, to live without video for a week and blog about it. He did, admitting that it was harder than he expected.

I also put out a call to find self-identified video addicts. Through blogs and emails I invited people to contact me with stories of addiction. I didn’t define addiction (will do that in a later post), but let people self-identify. Turns out people are pretty clear on what addiction means: you trade other important things to get your fix. Here’s a favorite story from a Pepperdine Law School student:

Season 7 of Gilmore Girls – the final season – was having its finale and I was going to watch it with a friend. But I was moving that day too and my boyfriend was helping me move all my stuff to a friend’s. I was supposed to follow him up Malibu Canyon with all my belongings that evening – but opted to stay in Malibu and watch the season finale of Gilmore Girls. My boyfriend pleaded with me to not watch the show and follow him up the canyon – but of course I rebuffed him because this was GILMORE GIRLS – and there was no way I was going to miss this episode. He pouted for the rest of the day – which I just didnt understand why – and went home alone. 

After the airing of the season finale – I drove up Malibu Canyon alone and got a call from my parents. Turns out my boyfriend had called and asked “their permission” to ask me to marry him. He was planning on pretending his car had stalled in one of the scenic overviews of the canyon and propose when I pulled over to see what was wrong. Of course, since I watched Gilmore Girls – I missed his proposal and as a result didn’t get a surprise planned proposal.

A week later he gave me the ring and I tried to reassure myself that this way was so much more romantic and cute than his original plan. But honestly, I had ruined the surprise by being addicted to tv and have always regretted it. And whats worse, he wont ever let me live it down that I chose Gilmore Girls over him.

 I found several other good stories which I will draw from later. But I want more stories like this one. Are you an addict? Add your story of how much you love video and the lengths you have gone to get a fix.


Five things I’m thankful for in the world of video

November 26, 2008

That’s right, it’s the end of the year which means it’s time to start generating lists of things. Top 10 this, top 5 that, yada, yada. I thought I’d get a jump on the end of the year lists by doing a Thanksgiving list. As we pass the potatoes around the table tomorrow, let us all remember to be thankful that:

1) Hulu for the Holidays has us covered. Sure,  Hulu.com is great because it helps us keep up with such heartwarming and touching family favorites as Fringe and The Sarah Connor Chronicles, but it has gone far beyond that with its new Hulu for the Holidays campaign that introduces us to [actually] heartwarming movies we may have forgotten. Last week it was Rudy, A League of Their Own, and Call of the Wild, today’s featured movie is A River Runs Through It (in which one-time heartthrob Robert Redford simultaneously directs and passes down the mantle of screen idol to Brad Pitt). I would embed the clip for your immediate enjoyment, but, alas, due to rights issues this one is not viewable outside of Hulu.com.

2) Netflix went off the matrix. When I say matrix, I don’t mean the movie, I just mean the PC-based Internet. With Netflix off the matrix and on my $99 Roku box, my family actually enjoys watching Netflix streaming movies. It used to be I had to lead the kids to the PC and say, “look what you can do with Netflix!” They would blink once or twice and then say, “Dad, if I wanted to use the PC, I would watch YouTube or play Webkins.” Not anymore. We now have a queue of about 50 movies ready to play in the living room at any time. All of them family friendly, except, whoa, hey, who put Risky Business in there? I’ll have to check with my wife on that one. What does Tom Cruise have that I don’t? [Don’t answer that…]

3) Tina Fey is alive. As I reported yesterday, Nielsen says we watched 4.5 hours of TV a day in Q3 of this year. While that was attributable to the Olympics and the election, I think about 10 minutes of every day was probably spent watching Tina Fey. If she wasn’t doing her dead-on Sarah Palin impression she was talking about it with David Letterman; if she wasn’t being delightfully nerdy on 30 Rock, she was joking about it with Rachel Ray (btw, Tina Fey and Rachael Ray makes for a great rhyme, try it). And notice that all of her shenanigans, including CNN’s coverage of said shenanigans, are online for us to see on demand, over and over again. Do you ever get enough of her Palin-Clinton skit? Too funny.    

4) You didn’t have to go to YouTube Live. What? a YouTube event that is live? You mean you have to sit there and experience it linearly? You can’t just jump to the next related video as soon as you’re bored with the current performance? Hmmm. Why was this a good idea? The best headline on this one goes to the San Francisco Chronicle, “YouTube Has Real Party for Self-Made Stars.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of YouTube. It’s enormous — it delivers 25% of all the online video minutes American experience each day. But the whole point of YouTube is that it’s a massive filter. You don’t have to watch what you don’t want to watch. YouTube Live was not that. Luckily, I was able to catch up later by watching the highlights on, you guessed it, YouTube.  

No, he doesnt always look this scary

5) We’re not this guy. By “this guy,” I’m referring to my friend, marketer and social web practitioner, John Johansen (pictured here in his Halloween costume), who accepted a challenge from me to live an entire week without any video at all. None. Zip. Nada. And he opted to take this challenge during Thanksgiving week. That means no movies, no catching up on episodes of shows while visiting family. No football on Thanksgiving Day! Could you do it? Bet you couldn’t. Be thankful I didn’t challenge YOU!


Americans watch more video than ever before, says Nielsen

November 25, 2008

This is one of the predictions of OmniVideo — with more ways to watch video, people will end up watching more. I have gone on record saying that the average adult will watch five hours of video a day in 2012, a 25% over the four hours people watch today.

It turns out my prediction may come true sooner than that, especially when you consider this piece today from Meg James at the LA Times. In it, Nielsen reveals that in the third quarter of 2008, the average adult watched 4.5 hours of TV a day. Now, admittedly, this was the quarter in which the Olympics happened, and yes, it was the run up to an unprecedented election, so TV viewing naturally rose higher than it would have been otherwise. But we should expect that once the dust from the election settles, TV viewing won’t revert to 4 hours a day, but will likely stay closer to 4.25 hours, continuing its climb to a stable 5 hours a day by 2012. In other words, I stand by my prediction, and am pleased to see that there’s already evidence that we’re willing to watch more than the record levels we already watch.

This is significantly more than we watched a decade ago. Given that the average TV home hase more than two people in it, the typical home has a television on for 8 hours and 18 minutes a day, up from 7 hours and 15 minutes a decade ago. This will only rise as people have more DVRs and more Internet-connected devices like the Netflix Player by Roku which give us more control over our viewing habits.

Yes, we are addicted to video and I’ll be measuring our addiction over the coming weeks with some blog posts about addiction. Get ready to face your demons. Or not — one of my hypotheses is that increased video viewing is not actually pathological. Sure, a few addicts will go overboard, but most of us are getting real value from video: we’re observing social norms, collecting news, receiving physiological stimulation, emotional expression, relaxation and distraction. We need these things. 

What do you get out of video?


Could you go without video for a week?

November 25, 2008

I’m in the process of investigating what TV addiction will mean in an Omnivideo world.

When you can watch what you want, when you want, where you want, certainly addiction will be easier to feed. But will it actually be worse? If the pitfalls of addiction include sitting numbly in front of the TV letting it wash over you, does it actually get worse or better when you can take a more active role?

So expect more from me in the coming weeks, including some notes with an interview with an academic who studies TV addiction. In the meantime, I hit up a friend of mine, Marketer and Social Media practitioner John Johansen of Austin, Texas, to see if he was up for an experiment: could he live for a week without a stitch of video? His answer: I can give it a try.

I was imagining he’d wait until after Thanksgiving, but not John, he jumped right in and started on Sunday. He has already blogged about it and it twittering using the Twitter hash tag #novideo. His early conclusion:

I am less than 24 hours into the trial and I’m reconsidering how simple this will really be.

Could you do this? Feel free to add to the conversation on his blog Original Comment, on my blog, or with your own twitter posts. I’ll summarize John’s experience and share with you my “how to tell if you’re an addict” quick quiz at the end of the week.

Good luck, John!