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.

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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!


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!