The ad agency Hill Holliday performed an experiment late last year. They took five average families and asked them to forgo cable/satellite and rely on a ‘connected TV’ device for a week over the Christmas holidays.

The families were all fairly average as described by the Hill Holliday blog entry about the experiment:

The five families we selected were fairly diverse in their composition, media habits and levels of technical expertise (and we are extremely grateful to them for letting us disrupt their lives). Everyone had either Netflix or iTunes accounts (some had both), and most had devices other than their cable box already hooked up to their TVs. Every family watched at least 16 hours of television a week (self-reported), watched video online, had a modern TV set, a cable or satellite subscription, broadband access and a wireless set-up.

The experiment involved five families because each received one of five devices: a Roku, Boxee box, GoogleTV, Xbox 360, or an Apple TV. None of these are drop-in cable replacements, but the experiment was interesting anyway. As you might expect, the consensus was that none of the families are about to dump their cable service.

What I found remarkable was that I seem to be an outlier in what I want from television.

Constantly having to pick what to watch next was daunting not only because it interrupted the usual flow of TV-time activities in the house or required interacting with unfamiliar interfaces but also because of the cognitive load involved in considering all of the numerous content alternatives. “I don’t want to have to think about it” was one of the strongest sentiments we’ve captured in our interviews.

It went further stating that when the family couldn’t decide what to watch, they didn’t watch television at all!

Put as simply as possible, I don’t understand. I don’t watch TV to unwind, pass the time, or as a filler when I have nothing else to do. I watch television to see programs that I want to see. I’m not a channel flipper, and watching television with someone who is makes me crazy. Not thinking about it is the opposite of what I want. Before I sit down in front of the television, I already have thought about it. That’s why I reach for the remote control in the first place. If there’s not something I want to see, I don’t watch television. I watch enough already without wasting time on programs that I don’t really want to see.

And here I was thinking that these devices needed only to be easier to configure and use before they broke into the mainstream. It seems they’re the opposite of what many people want.

My relationship with television was very different, but I never was a flipper. I left the television on most of the time when I could see it from the computer. I moved my furniture around and now that’s all changed, for the best, I think. Television can devour vast amounts of time and there’s so much else to do!


Via the Gizmodo article, “ ‘Experiment In Cord Cutting’ Shows Good Enough Is Perfect for Most.”