The Remote Control, Out of Control: Why À La Carte TV Is Too Much for a Trekkie


“It will be onerous for consumers to have a couple dozen discrete relationships,” he added. “The question then is how do they get re-aggregated back into a very compelling consumer proposition?”

Breaking the cable bundle is also changing how television is developed, because more companies have access to our data. McKinsey, the consulting firm, has been collaborating with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, using artificial intelligence to help media companies make sense of the viewer data they collect. Among other things, they did a computer analysis of 1,500 short films from the website Vimeo, graphing their emotional peaks and valleys and correlating them to user comments.

The analysis found the stories that resonate most either “culminate with a positive emotional bang” or have characters that achieve “early success and happiness before a steady decline into misfortune.” Such insights “could mean a new musical score or a different image at crucial moments, as well as tweaks to plot, dialogue, and characters,” the analysis concluded.

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“The risk in the industry is spending large amounts of money for early-stage television series, most of which fail,” said Jonathan Dunn, a McKinsey partner who co-authored the analysis, adding that the goal is to “take all of that information you’ve learned about recommendation and discovery” and “get an edge on your production and greenlighting choices.”

Things used to be simpler. My father made a ritual of coming home from work, settling in a leather chair with a Scotch and soda and watching reruns of “M*A*S*H.” I stationed myself on a couch to his right.

Now we have our own content corners. There’s a 12-year-old in my house who watches YouTube videos of other kids playing video games. I’m catching up on “BoJack Horseman,” the Netflix cartoon about a washed up, drunken actor who happens to be a horse. Hulu and Showtime haven’t made the cut. As for HBO, get back to me in 2019, when “Game of Thrones” returns.

Marc DeBevoise, president and chief operating officer of CBS Interactive, said “Star Trek: Discovery” was in production when the company was looking for an anchor for its new streaming service, which now has more than two million subscribers.

“We realized that building this into a multimillion-subscriber service was going to take a great base,” he said, “and we realized we were going to have our own exclusive content to differentiate it.”

I understand the business rationale. But I’m done paying for more TV, even if it means turning my back on Star Trek. This is an absolute red line I will not cross until after Feb. 11 when the first season of the show ends and I can sign up for the free trial week they offer and binge-watch it all at once.


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Until then, the entertainment industry should remember we don’t have to watch television. I read a novel recently, and I might read another one, if it’s short enough. Really, I will.

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