the challenge of choice

I’ve just finished looking through hundreds of channels, our DVR, and an on-demand video service, and I’m right back to the laptop. I can’t help but wonder if “57 channels and nothing on” is actually caused by too much choice rather than not enough? Custom content for all is just sophisticated market segmentation, but what if all that division ends up removing the interplay of elements that actually ends up making a better product? Consider soup: maybe you really, really like egg noodles, and somebody else really likes chicken, so you offer two separate menu items: noodles, and chicken. But maybe it turns out that neither is as good alone as they are together.

I think the industry has gotten good at determining individual elements that people enjoy: we know that some people like stuff blowing up, so we’ve got Destroyed In Seconds, and we know that some people like celebrities, so we’ve got Keeping Up with the Kardashians. But I think that as market segmentation gets more advanced, we’re going to be moving beyond individual tastes and going back to finding a perfect blend, a recipe that pulls in a broader demographic through the combination of individual preferences than by just creating many different shows. What if one single Cosby Show actually brings in more eyeballs than a dozen “niche” programs combined? Can you figure out how to achieve synergy by combining disparate market segments, by adding some explosions to your soap opera, or some romance to your sports?

Can you create something everybody wants to watch?

Who knows? Maybe sitcoms and variety shows will be the next big thing, all over again.

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