If there is one thing that streaming has had over regular old TV this whole time, it’s that you get to watch what you want when you want to watch it.
But is that always a good thing?
We have all been faced with choice paralysis while flipping through seemingly endless libraries of content. Sometimes it feels like we could have watched an entire movie in the time it takes to find something we actually want to watch.
Netflix has long known this, and in France they will begin testing out a novel way to present their streaming: Showing you what they want at a time they want to show it.
Yes, streaming is going back to the old days of scheduled programming, where a bunch of shows will just run and you can tune in halfway through like it used to be.
This is not completely shocking, as there has been success with other services like Tubi and Pluto TV that offer what is essentially cable without cable. But it still feels a little counterintuitive that the leader in streaming would want to go backwards.
This must mean that the choice paralysis has become enough of an issue that the company sees no harm in helping herd people towards television and making some harder choices for them.
But to do this, Netflix will need to really know what makes the best linear content, and for that they will probably need AI.
The main goal of linear TV, after all, is to keep people watching whatever is on screen. Unlike normal Netflix, where if you don’t like something after a few minutes you can just find something else, the intention of this would either be to engage the viewers or, frankly, be satisfying background noise.
After all, one aspect of TV that is often left out of these conversations is a lot of people just like to have something on while they go about their day. This is one reason why familiar TV we’ve already seen is such a safe choice.
But instead of just having a channel of nothing but episodes of Dexter and Schitt’s Creek, Netflix will want to find those shows that share enough engaging elements to keep the right kind of audience tuned in.
And with AI, that exact kind of analysis can help build a channel that keeps people continually tuning in, whether they want to stare at a TV for hours or just have something going while they are folding laundry.
So, in a way this is not a step backwards but rather an attempt by Netflix to make a smarter, more intuitive linear TV. It’s the kind of goal that will be that much more successful with reliable, accurate AI.