This is the past, present, and future of TV in just three minutes.
If you enjoy this post, I’m writing a book for new and aspiring product managers to help them get a head start in their PM career. Sign up at principles.pm to get a free chapter now.
1960s: A family affair
It’s the 1960s and your family has gathered in the living room to watch TV. Through this tiny window, you saw the first step on the moon, the assassination of a president, and the daily life of Lucille Belle. All of this unfolded on three networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC. If you wanted to watch cooking shows all day, you were out of luck.
1990s: Bundles of cable
It’s the 1990s and you can now browse over a hundred cable channels. You still watch TV with your family but you spend all your time fighting over the remote. You just want to watch ESPN but Rugrats on Nickelodeon is must see TV for your kids.
All this choice is giving media executives headaches. They now have to fight for ad spend with a hundred other channels. They find the answer to their ad woes in subscription bundles:
- TV shows were bundled into channels.
- TV channels were bundled into packages.
- TV packages were bundled to include voice and data.
This bundling forced you to pay for content that you didn’t want to watch, but you didn’t know any better so you happily signed up for the Triple Play.
2010s: Content, access, and personalization
It’s the 2010s and your kids are spending more time watching videos on their phones than on TV. In fact, other than global events like the World Cup, your family almost never watches TV together anymore.
That’s ok with you, because you were never that interested in watching what your family liked anyway. After all, you just want to watch what you like, at a time that works for you, on a device that you have easy access to.
Something else is bothering you. Looking at your bills, you realize that you’re paying Comcast $1,000 a year for dozens of channels that you don’t watch when you could just be paying Netflix $100. You decide to cancel your cable subscription — you have no tolerance for TV ads anymore and never liked Comcast’s customer service anyway.
You’re giving media executives a headache again. Even the executives at HBO are panicking. With Game of Thrones ending, they discover that their subscribers are spending just as much time watching niche content like Korean zombies dramas and Brazilian dystopian thrillers. They’re in a race with every other media company to deliver on three things:
- A huge library of quality content.
- Access to an amazing watch experience on any device.
- A personalized feed of the most relevant content for each person.
2020s: Screens, creators and platforms
It’s the 2020s and you look forward to getting stuck in traffic everyday. After all, that’s when you can immerse yourself in your favorite shows without getting interrupted. You feel a sudden pane of loneliness as you recall watching TV in the living room with your family decades ago. You decide to be social and watch the Commute, a local trivia broadcast that you can play with other people on the highway.
The Commute is available on one of a handful of global media platforms — Disney, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and several Chinese conglomerates. Creators on these platforms range from movie studios to millions of streamers and app developers self publishing their own shows. The lines between entertainment and communication are becoming increasingly blurred as some of these shows require your active participation.
You can access all this content from your car, glasses, and even billboards on the highway. A TV is no longer a box in your living room. Instead, it exists everywhere to give you exactly what you want to watch.