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Kids in ‘Netflix Only’ Homes Saved from 230 Hours of Commercials a Year (exstreamist.com)
758 points by joeyespo 60 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 440 comments

I accidentally watched some TV the other day. Having not seen any regular programming for at least a year, I was amazed at how much ... dumber it has become. Also, why did we sit through so many commercials for so long? It feel a little like a twilight zone episode, where we sit there watching a box telling us what to buy.

I suspect regular programming isn't getting dumber, the alternatives are just getting smarter.

When I look at the crap I watched as a kid in the 80s (which included a good amount of 70s reruns), basically all broadcast TV today is far superior. But the competition for broadcast TV isn't "no competition" now, it's the Internet, and computer games, and Netflix. The entertainment industry has been blown wide open by the Internet and computers, and so now they have to compete with thousands of alternatives instead of just having 3 channels to choose from. Naturally, quality goes up.

When I was a kid, the "rots your brain" videogame that my parents would only let me play at friends' houses was Super Mario Brothers. Now, my "rots your brain" pastime is Factorio, which is a game where people are literally designing chips in:



One thing that is certain is that there are more commercials now. If you watch an episode of The Big Bang Theory sans commercials, you will notice that it is only 17 minutes long! And that includes the 60 second intro. So 13 minutes of commercials for 16 minutes of actual content. No chance I'll be going back to regular TV.

To be fair, the commercials are the best part of watching The Big Bang Theory. Much better to spend a few minutes imagining how cool I would be if I just owned Product X rather than see a nerd minstrel show with an annoying laugh track.

Thanks that’s such a great way to put it! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Watching shows like BBT about “nerds” is really depressing. I mean compare how math was depicted in 1952 vs today: https://imgur.com/a/Mvwgt. Look, it’s math, sort of. Today it’s nothing but a minstrel show that makes science seem even more inaccessible than it was portrayed just 20 years ago.

Not to mention the downright offensive portrayal of aspergers and autism in general. And also, "LOL look at Penny, she's so stupid in comparison to these genius nerds, hahaha, oh awww but she's so sweet and pretty, oh haha there goes Sheldorp with more of his antics, what a loveable hateful genius, wow I wonder when I'm gonna learn my next Physics Fact. Geez I wish I weren't so stupid, I'll never be as smart as these guys..."

Tried it. Hated it. The same way I hated South Park. Cheap laughs. Punching down vs punching up. Mean spirited.

Definitely reconsider watching Southpark. The last few seasons are the sharpest social and political satire on television.

South Park Seasons 18 and 19 are almost like a different series as compared to the previous seasons.

Thanks for the replies. I'll reconsider.

I still haven't forgiven Parker & Stone for telling people that voting didn't matter. If they've grown up, with some kind of mea culpa, I'll be happy to welcome them back to civil society.

This is not the image I have of SP. Okay with cheap laughs, but I believe they (mostly) punch up.

Reconsider. Watch South Park "Grounded Vindaloop" episode.

For those who took the bait, I'm thinking they're missing something. For what it is worth, I've met quite a few young people who credit their interest in studying medicine and biology to shows like CSI (which I personally loathe).

Anyone have an anecdote of young BBT fans being drawn to physics or math?

Sure, it's a comedy, but it's not like there's a watchable Star Trek turning a new generation towards STEM. Mr. Robot, probably just breeding more anarchists.

Orville. Check it out.

…really? "Nerd minstrel show?" Ah yes, we poor nerds, overcoming centuries of repressive awkwardness and desk jobs.

Maybe an analogy in poor taste, but the premise of BBT is basically “look how many negative stereotypes of scientists and engineers we can get our audience to point and laugh at, if we take our lazy awkward mean-spirited writing and put a laugh track over the top”.

Try searching for versions with laugh track removed to get a better sense of the writing per se without the extra emotional manipulation.

Compare with Silicon Valley, a comedy show which also mercilessly skewers nerds, but more for the sake of social commentary than just piling on insults, and which treats even the most caricatured characters with some dignity and humanity.

I find this sentiment interesting. I find BBT hilarious and identify with the characters. I often drag my wife to watch a specific BBT episode to get her to understand the way I think or understand the way I was in the past before I met her. I don't find it demeaning at all. I often find it hilarious and say, "yeah, that's me right there!" I see myself in Sheldon, Leonard, and Howard all of them. Raj, not so much. I haven't watched enough of The IT Crowd that people here on HN cite as being a better show to know what I think of it. The few clips I've seen on YouTube, I've only seen the IT Crowd characters being bullied more than I ever saw BBT characters get bullied. It's probably a biased sample, maybe those clips are at the top of the list because people like to watch nerds get bullied? I don't know. All I know is that I don't get all the hate towards BBT.

It’s for those of us who aren’t able to express ourselves using the characters. My family, friends, and outsiders use the stereotypes to label me or describe me in ways I find incorrect. It’s not a knock against those it does, I’m just incorrectly placed and it’s frustrating. In some ways, yes, it’s hating the symptom and not the root, but I’m only human despite my steadfast nihilism.

I like IT Crowd, but I agree, it is just some funny, derpy IT guys that nothing every goes right for. But BBT guys have a lot of the stereotypes but generally come out triumphant over the bullies and thugs of the world. If anything, BBT celebrates "nerds" more than any other show in recent memory.

I never really watched much of it, but this PA comic[1] from a few years back clued me into this. I can't say I disagree (even if I've known plenty of nerds that like Big Bang Theory). Sterotypes often have some truth to them, to lesser and greater degrees, but that doesn't mean playing them up to an extreme degree for laughs is something we should necessarily encourage.

1: https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2013/01/21/royalty

Someone made a series out of Revenge of the Nerds?

I stole this from someone else, but I can’t remember who. BBT is what stupid people think smart people are like.

I think Big Bang Theory is terrible but I don't think the people who like it are dumb. Just a different taste in humor. I've heard a similar observation but contrasting Big Bang Theory with Arrested Development (or Community or Rick and Morty, whichever someone wants to say is smart, I guess) that I think is more accurate: "The Big Bang Theory is a dumb show about smart people. Arrested Development is a smart show about dumb people."

I think "dumb show" reflects more about the style of humor than the type of people who like it. Some people prefer clever, subtle humor. Some people want goofy and slapstick humor. Some people love awkward situational humor. There is no account for taste.

But yeah, it's an awful show.

> I don't think the people who like it are dumb

I don't think that's quite what the parent was saying. It's not that BBT is a show for a dumb audience. Rather, BBT is a show about supposedly smart characters, with a writing staff that doesn't have anyone sufficiently-smart-enough on it to be able to accurately depict the thinking process of genuinely smart characters.

You can't, as someone with an average IQ, really write the internal monologue of someone with a much higher IQ. You can probably capture their personality, but you can't solve problems the way they solve problems (or write characters who do so) without, at least temporarily, actually being that smart.

This is an often-discussed aspect of writing military fiction: it's basically impossible to come up with the sort of strategic masterstrokes that a famous general would come up with, without yourself being a famous general. You can bring together ten lesser strategists and ask them to knock their heads together, and you still won't get a brilliancy† out.


Most people who write master strategists in fiction end up just doing one of a few main things:

• they crib all the "clever moves" from well-known historical battles. This limits you to just, essentially, writing history over again wearing a new coat.

• they get an actual master-ish strategist to consult. You see this in, for example, sports anime about chess or Go—the author usually relied on input from a high-level professional (but not master) player.

• they just make the characters' abilities entirely informed, rather than explicit. This is your Sherlock Holmes story: you can see what they came up with in the end, but you don't get any insight into how they went about putting it together. The author just decided what the solution was, worked backward to what sorts of clues would lead one to that solution, and then decided by fiat that the protagonist would notice those clues.

The whole "rational fiction" movement is basically about avoiding doing any of the above.

Exactly, the only people I know who like it are non-technical (e.g. my mother-in-law) who like it because "lol, nerds" (disclaimer: I'm not saying there aren't technical people out there who like BBT). For me, it's in the same awful category as 2-and-a-half men of shows with huge audiences that I can't watch for any length of time.

same creator as Two and a Half Men and some of those other shows you’re probably thinking of so that’s an apt comparison

I'm going to go out on a limb and say minstrel shows were disgusting and mean-spirited enough that the historical context that contained them was overpowered by its own characterizing foulness. Would be a pretty stomach churning thing to see today even without knowledge of the history. Definitely a coherent metaphor, in the same way 'grammar nazi' is -- conflating style but not magnitude.


Jim Parsons has won four Emmy awards and a long list of others for his portrayal of Sheldon Cooper. You may hate the character and the actor, but he’s objectively not a terrible actor.

If only the Emmys meant anything else besides what's popular this season first and foremost...

As if a group can complain against discrimination only if their pain is as big as another groups?

BBT as a minstrel show -- which is a way of mocking another group -- is an apt simile, regardless of whether blacks suffered worse fate or not.

Which is not even relevant anyway: what blacks suffered had little to do with minstrel shows, those were the least of their troubles. If parent had compared BBT to slavery, you'd have a point. But he made a much more precise argument.

Just a technicality - Chuck Lorre productions, including The Big Bang Theory, do not use laugh tracks [0].

But yes the live audience laughs moronically on cue and I totally agree with your assessment of the show.

[0] http://www.chucklorre.com/index-bbt.php?p=537

> nerd minstrel show

Do we have to go through this every time BBT is mentioned on the internet. We all know the show sucks and why, and adding this descriptor only starts the same stupid fight that appears on every BBT thread and is never resolved and just makes everyone angry.

Why would it need to be resolved? What thread ever gets resolved when there are > 1 opinions to begin with?

> One thing that is certain is that there are more commercials now. If you watch an episode of The Big Bang Theory sans commercials, you will notice that it is only 17 minutes long! And that includes the 60 second intro. So 13 minutes of commercials for 16 minutes of actual content. No chance I'll be going back to regular TV.

I get my episodes of BBT from iTunes. You’re correct that BBT episodes are shorter than most other mainstream shows (at least in my own library). They are often only about 18-19m, other episodes reach 21-22m as well. I don’t see any below 18m in the past four seasons and stopped searching beyond that. Alternatively, most of the half-hour shows I watch are consistently about 20-21m, so BBT is definitely providing less content overall.

As for the assertion of 1m intros with BBT, that's 3x longer than reality. I scripted simple controls for controlling iTunes via my phone so that I wouldn’t need to reach for my kbd or trackpad. I set the FWD time to 30 seconds and the BACK time to 10 seconds. Jumping ahead by 30s is appropriate for most shows that I watch, whereas BBT requires me to also jump back by 10s (it has a 20s intro).

Few sitcoms still have 1m or longer intros. New Girl is about 5s, down from around 30s when it started. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia dropped from 1m to 30s. The Sarah Silverman Program dropped from 22s to 17s in 2010. I see the overall trend for typical broadcasts as gradually reducing intros (excluding shows on HBO, etc; those still have very long intros but also no commercials).

The Simpsons has some intros that push up to and sometimes over two minutes in length. Sure, they're often clever and do take time and money to create, but it's still time taken from the actual show.

Supernatural or Lost are good examples of how an intro should be. Literally just the name of the show on the screen for a few seconds, no theme music that gets annoying halfway through the season, no montage of the characters tromping around a fountain, just skip to the show.

Many people would consider the simpsons intros part of the show not a traditional intro. Seeing what Bart writes on the chalkboard was my favorite part of the show as a kid.

An intro they only use once is part of the "actual show".

Netflix is just skipping intro for you.

No intro to skip in Lost (it's just 5-10 seconds of the show title against a black screen).

That's been the trend for dramas basically ever since-- Lost was among the first to adopt the minimal intro that's popular now. Stargate even made a joke out of it in one of their later episodes.

Really? Weird. Usually if it skips the intro it plays the entire intro the first time you play it after not playing it for a while. It never does that for me.

At any rate... the Netflix skipped intro is how it should be done. Thank god for Netflix.

If you're watching it in syndication it's probably either cut or sped up (or both) to squeeze in even more commercials. The intro and credits combined are about a minute on that show as most 30 minute shows are.

I don't complain about the speeding too much as I watch most shows are 1.5x and cut out the commercials so a show with 18 minutes of content takes 12 minutes.

I could see speeding up shows to 1.5x if I was a reviewer and was watching them for work. But speeding up your entertainment seems strange to me. It'd be like ordering French Laundry to go.

For those with a level of cultural awareness like mine, French Laundry seems to be a flash restaurant in Napa valley, California.

This made me laugh. French Laundry is like a cultural institution in California cuisine and is actually located in Yountville. I have never been there though. Have a tough time dumping $1000 on single dinner

It's an AMAZING restaurant in Napa -- Thomas Keller's the chef and it's the culinary equivalent of an orgasm.

Is it really $310 per head?

Yeah, but just the tip is more.

(I'm sorry.)

The entertainment density is often very low.

It doesn't work this way for content that tries to communicate a specific mood, but for slapstick humor chains like BBT, more jokes is just funnier than less jokes per minute.

Is this a recent change?

IIRC the standard is:

22 minutes for 30 min shows

44 minutes for hour long shows

You can go to RARBG and check the MediaInfo for any show.

So you get 16 min of ads every hour. So a quarter of each hour is ads.

Is that all that different from what it was before? My recollection of 80s sitcoms & children's programs is that they had 3 commercials of 3 minutes apiece, plus a 3 minute break between programs. That's 12 minutes.

Actually, I can test this...I've got some old My Little Pony episodes lying around on a hard disk. They're 9 minutes apiece. IIRC they ran 2 to a timeslot, so that's 18 minutes of show per 30 minute timeslot, and 12 minutes of commercials.

I don't know about kids cartoons, but I just watched the original Star Trek episodes from the late 60's and they are 50 minutes each (for a 1 hour time slot) so that's 10 minutes of commercials. Hour long episodes are now about 40 to 41 minutes in length, so the number of commercials has doubled since then.

Its gonna differ per country. I remember in the 90s 3 commercial breaks in a movie here in NL was default. I was shocked and annoyed when I learned in early 00s it was every 20 min. I don't know what it is now, I avoid commercial TV like the plague. Though public broadcasting also still has them. As a kid and young adult I used to be able to sometimes laugh at commercials. Nowadays, some commercials appeal more to me due to age diff, but many don't because they use youth language. On top of that I find practically all commercials are condescending, stupid, and annoying. Their attempts to deceive and manipulate are laughable, ineffective, a waste of my time, and a waste of my mood. Nothing good comes out of me watching commercials. Not for the advertiser, nor for me. I cannot remember the last time it stimulated me to buy something I otherwise wouldn't. That is, from TV commercials and ads on the Internet. Product placement, embedded marketing, marketing buzz works fine. I suspect there's so many TV commercials because it is ineffective. If less people watch than before, its more expensive to buy the rights, so they gotta advertise more. Or perhaps its corporate greed.

SciFi channel once aired the original uncut TOS episodes. Each episode took an hour and fifteen minute time slot. Shows how much commercials have increased since than...

Taking a look specifically at the Big Bang Theory, up until Season 10, most episodes were around 21 minutes. Season 10 had episodes around 20-21 minutes, and the current season (11) hovers around the 19-20 minute mark.

When I was in High School, our English teacher actually wrote and produced a TV show and was telling us about her experience and some of the things she had to do to cut episodes in the right amount of time for commercials. At the time (mid 2000s), the average was 23 minutes of show per 30 minute episode.

Looking across my library at recent shows, it seems to average about 21 minutes nowadays.

Not to mention networks like TBS have been caught speeding up shows like Seinfeld so that they can squeeze more commercials into the timeslot.

Certainly US TV has way more adverts than TV in the UK, but even UK TV has more adverts.

I stopped watching normal TV 2 years ago and before that used to record all my shows so I could fast forward through the adverts. Stuck at the in-laws for Christmas and I actually can't watch their TV due to the adverts now.

I think the current "rots your brain" videogame thing today is more along the lines of watching let's plays of minecraft; in fact I have a couple younger cousins who don't even play minecraft, they just watch the let's plays.

I have feeling the bottom of the barrel has gotten a lot worse than it used to be.

I recently started doing half hour(-ish) Minecraft let's plays[0] mostly for my own edification as I got back into playing it. Not many viewers yet but one bit of funny feedback stuck out - "my kid really, really likes just listening to you, it's weird." He's like 5.

[0] - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLmH4bXt23LHAg-INoizVY...

If you step back a bit from that game you realize it's tickling the same mental circuits you use in programming. If I had kids I'd definitely try to get them interested.

SpaceChem even more so.

This unfortunately makes Zachtronics games a non-starter for me. Software development and Zachtronics games is a fast track to burnout. Their last two involve literal programming.

For some reason, Opus Magnum didn't cause the "I do this all day already" reaction yet for me, despite clearly being a programming game. Maybe it's the theme and presentation of it? Or maybe it's just the relaxation of the bugs at least being obvious.

I think these games seem like fun (despite being similar to _work_) as they are free of consequences... the player can mess up and walk away without it impacting their daily life, that likely takes a lot of stress away from the activity.

Yeah, I think a lot of things that are stressful about work go away when you aren't afraid of the consequences of fucking up. It turns out that you can be both extremely productive and quite relaxed at work if you don't care about getting fired.

Interesting. Looking back at the toys I played with growing up, and how quickly I want to move onto new software development problems, I'm inclined to agree, but I wonder if there is some balance. Perhaps variety is the key. KSP is good for rocketry and light physics. Anything good for Chemistry?

I never got that feeling about Factorio (though I don't do EE), but I did with SpaceChem

Likewise; I think that's because (my interaction with) Factorio is much simpler; it's scratching the "build and organize" itch. I find this game to be relaxing after a hard day at work. (I'm sure this would change if I was trying to build and debug a complex circuit network).

As others have mentioned, Zachlikes are basically programming, and in particular the debugging / pipeline optimization parts can quickly drain my enthusiasm if I've been doing a lot of hard coding at work.

Yeah, that's true. I enjoy a bit of SpaceChem, but I think it would be better for non-programmers and for discovering kids who had the aptitude.

Regular programming may not be getting dumber, but the commercials most definitely are.

I haven't had a TV in 10 years and when I'm at someones house who does, the difference is immediately apparent, especially during the late night segments.

The average early AM commercial now (at least in my area) is literally so bad that it feels like advertisers just assume that their average viewer is mentally challenged or emotionally unstable in some way. It's almost like watching a SNL skit or a fake commercial within a really bad B-grade movie.

Cool to learn about this factorio game, but pretty sure its not as popular as super mario bros was back in the day.

You become smarter until roughly age 25. Naturally, your brain needs more of a challenge then.

Is Factorio popular among kids?

except that smart games like factorio only accounts a super tiny amount of gamers, most of which are actually playing games like league of legends, call of duty, cs go, dota 2, hearthstone and overwatch. they're all really fun games don't get me wrong.

Those games still definitely involve much more than muscle memory and I'd argue that they are indeed smarter as well.

they are life destroyingly addictive though. I myself have skipped classes or doing assignments to play that kind of game, which is one of the reasons why I don't game anymore

I used be like that when I was at school. I was addicted to Modern Warfare and later Modern Warfare 2 to the extent where I almost got kicked out of school because I was getting such poor grades.

I’m now a functioning adult and find it hard to get into video games, not because I fear I’ll get addicted but I just don’t get the same dopamine hit from games like I used to. I drive on race tracks to get that hit now.

Yeah, same here. I used to be "addicted" to videogames but nowadays I don't play at all. I fly planes and going to start racing next year.

People are designing circuits in Minecraft, and have been for years. That's an extreme example, but even my 8 year old son plays with redstone circuits and watches youtube howtos on how to do interesting setups in Minecraft on the Wii U.

In February of this year Minecraft apparently had 55 million players (with 122 million copies sold).[1]

1: http://www.ign.com/articles/2017/02/27/minecraft-has-55-mill...

Yeah! Minecraft is really cool, I agree. Makes me miss my legos.

I agree on quality, but I am surprised that the TV industry hasn't evolved yet beyond typical 30 second commercial spots. Maybe we haven't hit critical mass of people ditching cable TV - the likely culprit being sports.

With YouTube we see people not relying on direct ad revenue, but rather embedding sponsors into their content. And doing things like recommending products and using Amazon referrals to generate revenue from their channels. I guess the problem with broadcast TV is that commercials still work just as well as they did, they just have a smaller audience.

>When I look at the crap I watched as a kid in the 80s (which included a good amount of 70s reruns), basically all broadcast TV today is far superior.

Depends. Talk shows in the 70s (Dick Cavett and such) were far better than the BS today (from Fallon and Kimmel to Letterman). M.A.S.H would stand up there with anything today. And the original talent on something like the Ed Sullivan show or the Soul Train or Johny Cash show. Or the Groucho Marx game show I've been watching on YouTube (all the above were beyond my time, and I've only caught MASH on re-runs).

>I've only caught MASH on re-runs

I have a feeling that MASH somehow breaks the normal chain of time and causality in that the only time anyone ever caught it was on re-runs. Same with "A Charlie Brown Christmas". These are shows that were born in the big bang and civilisations occasionally drift into their broadcast space for a few decades before moving on. We're still in the MASH nebula, and have been since 1972.

To be fair, how niche is Factorio compared with, say, Candy Crush, or Call of Duty Ultimate Warfare 7, or stuff like that.

Just in case anyone still (or ever liked) BBT, check this video on how the show perpetuates misogyny. I was a fan, but after watching this it totally changed my perspective on the show.


Every year when I go home for Christmas I watch TV with my parents and I'm always astounded that they pay more money than me to get access to worse content, and it has ads. It's really astounding that folks put up with it.

I think TV remains popular with certain people largely out of ease of use. You can just turn it on and you don't have to make a decision about what to watch. It's always there.

Also, changing would require learning something new. People genuinely find learning to have a level of discomfort so they avoid it.


I wonder why Netflix doesn't add a "random content" button. That's one of the appeals of TV versus Netflix that could be replicated very easily.

Something more akin to changing channels like "random cartoon" or "random comedy" would remove one last obstacle in the way of converting cable subscribers.

If I were king of netflix...

There'd be a "cable-style-menu" option to mimic the way cable / satellite menus have looked since the late 90's. Maybe 50 or so channels of similar programming running on a time schedule, where you have the option of catching the last 30 minutes of "Terminator 2 - Judgement Day" or watching from the beginning.

Its mindless, but I think that style of consumption is what a lot of people want. It to do the hard work for them.

I think you're really onto something, but I would offer a slight modification. The value of watching something live is knowing it's an experience you are sharing with other people. Have a single live channel, where the purpose of the channel is that it's the live one that people across the country can be watching at the same time.

You could do multiple channels, but I think if you really, really want to capture the "I'm watching this with the rest of the country" feeling, a single live channel would be the safest bet.

It also may have value strategically, because there are some shows that "work" more as a live show, and there are some TV series that have better cultural impact if they are released in a serialized way. For instance I suspect Game Of Thrones has been more successful at permeating culture by releasing one episode a week than it would have been had the whole season been dumped at once.

Personally, I totally hate it but a lot of people basically turn on the TV when they walk into a room.

Financially though, it's not clear this would work for Netflix. Now, depending upon how they pay for a given piece of content, they're paying for a lot of programming being used as background noise. You'd have to get enough people buying Netflix subscriptions because of this added option to offset the higher costs.

I really like this idea. I still have cable, but mostly for background noise. When I’m doing something else, I don’t want to have to pick something specific on the TV.

I usually go for long old shows I love and start them from S1E1

My wife and I do that with The Office. You never have to pay attention, but you can have it as background and catch jokes here and there.

That seems like the sort of thing they'd totally do for one of their hackaton projects.

This is the approach some of the apps are taking these days, e.g Pluto TV.

The swedish national television streaming service had a big push for that a few years back. They launched a completely separate streaming service to mimic the linear experience, very much like what you describe. It didn't catch on at all.

I work in the streaming industry, and offering the same "background noise" quality is something that still eludes us. I personally believe that as soon as you introduce any sort of possibility of explicit input from the user (skip, pause), or even implicit (by the way, all of this is also available on demand in our catalogue) the experience is tainted. Subconsciously we know that we are needlessly watching something we should be tailoring ourselves.

The power of the linear channels is that they are so severely limited. Streaming services has long tauted that they are superior because they aren't. Tough problem.

The 'random' button would interfere with their aggregate viewership tracking and recommendation algorithms. When the viewer appears to select a particular show to watch, you can have reasonable faith in the viewership numbers.

If the platform were to offer a random choice, the fact that the resulting view was not organic would need to be tracked separately. Conversely, you'd want a better way of figuring out whether the viewer was satisfied with the content after all. These problems require nontrivial effort.

Right now, things are much easier. The viewer always makes a choice, ostensibly a conscious choice, and all views factor into aggregate numbers that correlate with show popularity.

I'm sure they have Referrer metrics, and could add a "from Random" flag.

The UI could even continue doing separate random programs, but allow the watcher to say "Keep Watching this", locking in their choice and making it a "discovered" show.

They should seriously consider "channels" whereby something random is always playing by genre.

Not even random. They could generate channels based on their observations of what you "switch channel" from.

>If the platform were to offer a random choice, the fact that the resulting view was not organic would need to be tracked separately

So just track it separately and don't interpret it the same way as deliberately chosen shows. I don't see the problem.

They could even sell a "pseudo DVR" box, with themed channels, scheduled movies, in addition to all the usual streaming features.

Seems like a problem that could be solved with an addon for Chrome and FF, at least...

> You can just turn it on and you don't have to make a decision about what to watch.

That...doesn't jive with the limited exposure I've had to cable television. Hundreds of channels and very little good on, I suspect people waste a lot of time flipping through.

I oversimplified for brevity. What I mean is, it doesn't require making an informed decision. You just flip it on and start making yes/no decisions. It has a lower barrier to entry in the same way that Tinder has a lower barrier to entry than other dating sites.

Trust me, having grown up in a broadcast and then cable TV household, there's a habituality to TV consumption that isn't there in streaming.

Though streaming has its own habituality in the form of bingeing.

Yep. Visiting relatives frequently involves me watching them flip channels until I can't take it anymore and go read.

Having never owned a TV myself, I'm actually considering buying one now. The fact that shows are actually getting better, combined with how easy it is to wait for other people to be a filter, combined with no ads makes TV actually attractive to me for the first time since I was like 5.

But still zero reason to pay for cable.

When the digital transition took place, my TV sat idle for about a year until a line of severe storms rolled through and I decided making it usable again made some sense.

Went out, bought a nice directional antenna, bought a converter box from a friend, turned it on.

5 minutes later I realized I had zero tolerance for ads shouting at me, boxed everything up, and eventually took the TV to recycling. (It also nearly put me in the hospital, big CRTs are big.)

My iPad and Netflix/iTunes are all I need. Someday maybe I'll get a 13" iPad Pro and stick it on a wall, but I doubt it.

get a tv, a small computer, plex, and a wireless media keyboard

its amazing

TV and Plex yes. But, after having tried all sorts of permutations connecting TVs to media servers and controlling them with keyboards, I find that Chromecast plus a tablet and/or a laptop over WiFi is a far better approach to getting content onto a TV.

That’s sort of where I am. Most of it is garbage but there are some channels that during some times of day have some decent stuff on. It’s just random what episode it is.

One thing I’d kind of like on Netflix and their ilk would be a way to choose a series and say “play me a random episode“. Some shows work well that way. I don’t want to have to go choose through six seasons to find something that appeals to me, I’ll just take an episode. Surprise me.

that's what i do with Plex. i use my legally obtained library of shows i like (updated on the regular), i open one up, and press shuffle.

I use radio for that. It's good for when you're doing something else that's not too absorbing (programming is out of question for me). Since you have something else to do, you by definition don't have time to sift through potentially interesting stuff.

I have the same experience. I visit my parents about once every other month and usually end up watching a show or two with them. The programs are amazingly childish junk, the kind of stuff that disturbed me most about high school enshrined as sport. And the advertisements just never stop. If anyone has any doubt what the goal for Comcast will be now that net neutrality is gone, it will be to make Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc cost more than the Comcast On Demand stuff (which has ads you can't fast-forward through, a tiny selection, etc). So once it costs you $12 to watch 2 movies on Netflix instead of $12 to watch movies all month long, then they will feel that the playing field is 'fair'.

I haven't watched cable since ~2009 and no longer subscribe. Not only are the shows just bad, but the image quality is terrible. If ISPs drag down the streaming video services then I hope Netflix returns to a robust DVD distribution model. IF not then I'll just buy DVD box sets before I support extortion.

There's a feedback loop in play:

Smarter people stop watching TV > TV adapts to the new demographics to fight over dwindling ratings > TV becomes dumber > Even more smarter people stop watching TV

So, is TV the Nigerian Prince of media now, because only the less mentally/technically able fall for its low brow offerings?

Try surfing without your adblocker for a moment (or if you don't use one: try surfing with one for a moment). You'll see a whole different WWW than what you're used to. Including websites like YouTube and news sites being referred to from HN.

With Netflix, you pay for an all you can eat sub without commercials. Newssites and newspapers should do the same. It allows for two viable ways to pay for content: either paying directly, or paying via advertisement/your time.

The old model of e.g. cable TV is akin to having one's cake and eat it too. Its outdated, and superseded. The only reason it still exists is because the legacy is being used due to habit ie. people who don't know yet about on-demand services like Netflix. Probably tons of babyboomers + elder. If we want to put the nails in the coffin, we gotta 1) unsub to cable TV as much as we can 2) not use it as much as we can 3) stimulate and help these lagging groups to get on with the program.

There's a shitload of product placement in Netflix and (particularly) Amazon original content. They're still telling you what to buy, you just don't notice it as much.

I still prefer to watch Frank Underwood telling me how good Monument Valley is than having my show stop and sit in front of old fashioned ads.

I really wondered about his political acumen and general well-being when he insisted that PS Vita had "all the games."

At least ads are honest and you can tune out.

Product Placement is like a landmine, I'm watching the show when they spring an ad out of the blue and kill any semblance of suspension of disbelief.

Anytime I notice an overtly blatant product placement (e.g. 3 second shot of a logo), I feel like I discovered a mole (as in double agent).

There's a certain feeling of "Gotcha! I still got it. Can't full me, Diet Coke".

Also good shows and movies do not do this. Never once noticed product placement in The Wire or Breaking Bad, Pontiac Aztec notwithstanding.

Depends a lot on implementation. My example: Netflix at the beginning of shows sometimes says something to the tune of "contains product placement". Several times now once gotten to the end and notice that it didn't stand out to me. It makes me suspicious, was it there all along and I just got advertised to without noticing it? Was it not there this episode? Am I becoming complacent and not noticing product placement as much as I used to?

Although that example wasn't actually an ad. It was the writer's idea to put that in.

Details: https://www.polygon.com/2015/3/13/8210581/monument-valley-ho...

This might be true but I much prefer product placement which doesn't interfere with the show than having the show be interrupted to see an ad.

True that. I'm considering cutting off netflix and going back to torrenting as the "no ads" mantra only means "no explicit ads" it seems.

i.e : Gypsy first episode was filled with Channel perfume branding. NO -f'ing- GO

>I was amazed at how much ... dumber it has become

I had the same reaction this Thanksgiving when I was at my Dad's. I don't think it actually has become dumber, we're just not used to it anymore. I felt like I was watching commercials with a bit of content sprinkled in. I cut the cord about six years ago.

It's amazing how many channels do "in show" advertising as well.

It started with station logo water marks and now its amazing to see how much of the lower right hand corner of the screen is seen by networks as acceptable to use for advertising another show while the current show or sporting event is running.

This happened to me as well. I stayed in a hotel last week for a night, and watched a movie on TV. I watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith on some channel, maybe MTV or FX. Literally every seven to nine minutes of movie, there were five minutes of commercials. It wasn't even enough time to really get into the movie before a commercial appeared. It was really a let down. Makes me happy I haven't paid for cable in many years.

TV really is dumb now. Maybe it always was, and we're just now realizing how dumb it is. That is, maybe we're getting smarter and are getting used to better tools. TV is a one-way channel, meant to be consumed. Desktops, laptops and mobiles are all two way channels, meant to be interacted with; superior to the TV model in every way.

When all you have is TV, though, you can acclimate yourself to all kinds of rubbish. I'm sure in the future when we have a superior protocol or way or doing something, we'll look back and wonder why we thought X was ever a good idea.

I think the “Frosty the Snowman” special on live TV ran almost 90 minutes... the commercials were agonizing.

Also, kids are consuming a lot of highly effective YouTube ads.

What ads? I block everything for my family. While I do have cable for certain things, my wife and I DVR everything and FF through the ads. I find advertising distasteful and I don't suffer through it. I will likely go straight Internet in 2018.

I can get straight unlimited 1GB connection Internet for $99 month. I pay another $45 for the cable. It's difficult to get BBC and BBC America without cable or satellite, and I watch both all the time.

BBC America is part of Sling's core package - $20 a month. It's also on Direct TV Now and Playststion Vue.

Good to know; thank you.

Getting rid of adverts on yt for all family is $10/mo, which I'm thinking is not that crazy. It's also a part of Google music family subscription for $15/mo - you get YouTube Red included.

uBlock Origin and similar other add-ons, plus some hostfile entries largely mean I don't see any ads anywhere. I also block them on my router for extra diligence. They simply don't get called. The way it's supposed to be.

How do you block them on your router? I'm using Pi-hole but I still get Youtube ads through my Chromecast.

Look at Ad Free Time. You have to have certain routers. I don't use a Chromecast or any other device like a Roku, so dealing with them is an unknown for me.

DD-WRT firmware (done via hosts file).

You can also runs pixelserv that will return a 1 pixel image so you don't get any errors.

Ublock doesn't cover mobile devices though. And even if you block it on the router, once you leave the house it's only available via vpn. And if you're going that far and making it available for your whole family and are on the hook for support... Maybe it's easier to just pay a few bucks a month. (Unless you're really enjoying doing it by hand, I guess)

> Ublock doesn't cover mobile devices though

It does on FF for Android!

The context here is youtube. When you're watching a youtube video on android, it's either in the youtube app, in a webview, or in the browser. The first two are not covered by ublock and the last one is the least likely to happen. (in my experience anyway)

Why use the YouTube app? The browser is Good Enough.

If you want a more "native" player there's always SkyTube and other similar apps for longform content.

I always use Firefox, although admittedly I don't watch that many videos. Same goes for Facebook, Twitter, etc.

There's a few apps for which I think native is important, but I'm generally happy with mobile websites. uBlock Origin really makes mobile web not suck.

NewPipe on Android. Superior to the Youtube app in every way.

As JetSpiegal said, I usually just watch it in the browser and it plays fine.

I've had Google Play Music for a lot longer than YT Red was bundled with it. When they introduced it, I mostly shrugged: pre-roll ads don't really bother me, especially skippable ones.

But it turns out YouTube was the last source of dynamic (i.e., not image/text) ads in my life, and now when on the rare occasion that I accidentally open YouTube in my work Chrome profile, I'm surprised at how averse I've become to dealing with even the tiny load lag + few-second wait for a pre-roll. I've considered switching to Spotify, since Google Play Music seems to be one of those life-support products that PMs within Google make their promotions off of through useless UI churn instead of fixing longstanding issues, but at this point, YT Red is what stops me from doing so.

I don't think TV was actually less stupid in the past, but boy do I get sick of watching the same commercials fifty times watching a football game.

It might not have been, but the comparison makes it more evident.

I don't follow, but I think what's more likely at work here is nostalgia glasses.

I can't be the only one who finds it far more disturbing that the average child watches nearly 3 hours of TV per day.

It's that same feeling you get when you go to the internet on a computer without adblock. How do people stand it?

Nicholas Negroponte joked that there's a “brightness” setting on the television, but it doesn't work.

That type of advertising is fairly ineffective at "convincing" someone to make a purchase. Compared to more modern advertising techniques (like Facebook or Google) and their advertising resulted in me making a 100k purchase of software. The TV cannot market particular seminars, or blog posts that I might find relevant to what i'm doing right now, but google and FB can.

It's scary and interesting.

Ok, I have to ask - what kind of software was that?

Monitoring software (elastic, splunk, etc..). That stuff is expensive!

What I am having trouble with is how to argue the switch for people like my parents who are not interested in any fictional content. Netflix and Amazon have still very little (talk, game, political) shows, the reporting is mostly not day-to-day and so on. They would probably watch five documentaries that are relevant to their interest, a few classical concerts but then what?

Absolutely: I cut the cable a couple of years ago. I refuse to watch commercials. When I do stumble on regular broadcast TV, it feels like the commercials take up 50% of the time.

Note that I don't mind smart or funny commercials. I will actually seek out reruns of the old "Hi I'm a Mac/PC" and watch them with delight. (And I'm a PC user :o).

I only started watching west wing least year.

I was shocked that network tv could produce something so smart, balanced, thoughtful, albeit 20 years ago.

There have been some astonishingly good television programs to come out of broadcast television. West Wing, MASH...

Wait, I'm sure there have been more. Right?

Yeah, never mind.

Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Star Trek. I mean, for certain values of "astonishingly".

Star Trek gave us a few excellent episodes. I don't think any of the series have been excellent overall, although I'm probably in the minority opinion in that.

I think that's probably a majority opinion. Star Trek's reach always exceeded its grasp. There are excellent episodes and very good seasons (mostly of TNG and DS9) but I don't think I know anyone who'd go to the mat for any of them as consistently excellent.

Simpsons, at least the first several seasons.



Didn't Frasier have a laugh track? I can't watch anything with a laugh track.

Yes. I tried watching it after moving to Seattle (cliché, I know), but couldn't bear it because of the laugh track.

Granted, but it was still a very good TV show. Actually liked it better than Cheers.

These guys take apart The West Wing. Sad that it's only the teaser, the full episode is excellent.


I know what you mean. I watched a show the other day that was actually made to air on network tv. I'd forgotten about tv reality. Most shows being made nowadays don't feel like they're set in tv reality any more. It was weird to watch something so firmly made for primetime television as opposed to Netflix or something else. I can't remember the last time I watched an actual 'television' show. It gave me this odd nostalgia and made me realize just how much things have changed. I also got this weird unrelated sense of relief that i'd never have to watch a movie on TBS ever again. I don't know why this thought came up but all these memories of watching butchered movies as a kid came back as I watched the happy go lucky, fcc friendly 'tv' programming.

Broadcast has to cater to the largest possible audience while streaming services can create content for niche groups. There's no competition for time slots.

Is that still true? My parents must have over a hundred channels.

for some perspective, Youtube has an estimated 46,000,000 channels.

there are over 7,000,000,000 people in the world

100 channels is not even close to enough, especially when they're all funneled through the same 2 or 3 providers

I actually had this conversation with my partner's mother a few weeks ago. She likes to watch cooking competitions in the kitchen while baking. Not having watched television for a few years, I was amazed at the audacity of commercial programming-- firstly, how can anyone be so stupid as to not boycott a product after seeing such mindless, assuming shit, but secondly and most importantly, how can advertisers be so arrogant as to assume the general populace is stupid enough to buy into their crap with these awful commercials.

The mother then informed that it's always been this way, so I looked up a few old ad compilations from the 90's and early 2000's. She was right.

I'm not sure about the television programming itself-- drama, "real-life" shows have always been a hit. I remember when I did watch television, I did so hoping to numb out whatever responsibility I had to do at the time with something non-thinking enough to be calming, but dramatic enough that it wouldn't bore me. The result is the crap they've been airing for years. And I realized again that advertising is all about subconscious influence. Doesn't matter how fucking stupid the commercials are, it matters that you've seen it. Television is mindless in the way that it lulls you-- you'll soon forget what happened, because nothing much happened, and you weren't really paying attention because the programs don't allow you to process everything consciously (in fact, that's because there's nothing to process-- afterall, all of it is laid out to you clear as day. This is what happens next, susie does this for this reason, the resolution you are about to see is expected under the paradigm we've constructed, etc). If you watch the same rehashed concepts everyday, the same commercials, it will stick in the subconscious, and some time later you'll be shopping in the supermarket and pick up a pack of Charmin toilet paper for no goddamn reason even though they market their flushable rainforest corpses with bears who complain that the paper is sticking to their assholes. You make that decision to buy in a split second because you hate grocery shopping and you don't have a lot of time to debate over prices because you still have a dozen other items to pick up. How do you choose? Those bears are cute, something tells me this toilet paper is extra soft and clearly that's something I should want out of a decent quality toilet paper... idk throw it in the cart.

We're actually in a golden age of good TV now...but it's also true that there's plenty of garbage on.

Sturgeon's law at work...

It's important to remember that the percentage of time devoted to commercials has been increasing over time.

1950s: 13% Pre-cable: 18% Pre-web: 22% Pre-Youtube: 24% Now: 30%

As alternative forms of media have become available, the value per viewer hour has decreased, so the total amount of time devoted to commercials has increased.

>where we sit there watching a box telling us what to buy

This is no different from YouTube or Facebook. Except those services follow your personally and make shadow profiles of your preferences and sell them to other companies. Is that really better?

Yes, yes it is. I’m astounded your conflate broadcaster cable TV ads with the stuff we see on, say, YouTube. They seem very different to me

Probably depends on your usage pattern. When you see Youtube ads on a newly setup machine (pre ad-block install...) or something else which won't have a good tracking profile, it seems a lot like TV ads: soda, cat food, body lotion or deodorants or something of that nature, video games.

YouTube ads don’t tell you what to buy? Or, they aren’t displayed on something box shaped?

If you mean the ads are better quality, then that’s even worse. Better ads mean you’re being told what to buy... more effectively.

> If you mean the ads are better quality, then that’s even worse. Better ads mean you’re being told what to buy... more effectively.

I suppose it depends what you mean by "better quality".

I have seen ads which were effective in making me think something was a good product only to discover that it's not upon further research.

On the other hand, I have seen ads which were really good in the sense that they showed me something that I would not have otherwise found and that I genuinely like.

If it matters to anyone I work for Google (Cloud) so maybe I'm biased in my stance on ads. That being said, I am guilty of using ublock origin so I like to think I hate annoying ads as much as anyone else.

Out of curiosity, how many of your co-workers use adblocking plugins/extensions? Also do you use it at work and do you whitelist Google?

More that there's approximately 5 seconds of ad per hour of video, and they're fairly simple to filter out.

I'm going to send your comment to the NFL (on be half of all the anti Kaeperick morons who blame him for the lower ratings). Even the British PL (football aka soccer) has a small # of adverts.

Well, this is true for most of the netflix series and must content out there (youtube etc). They just pump out show after show tailored for binge watching. The whole thing is just dumb.

Yeah, but you never have to watch what you don’t want, including ads.

If you believe you are not watching ads when you watch Netflix, you need to look into the product placement in their shows. Drinks, watches, cars, clothes, all brands and even quite a few locations... it is all paid for, to entice you to buy.

I was about to suggest that this would be hard in fantasy shows, like Game of Thrones. But on review, there's not much of that on Netflix. It's all contemporary. Interesting...


Product placement and ads both serve the purpose of promoting something, but they're not really the same thing at all. I mean, both cars and bikes serve the purpose of transportation, but I don't think many people would argue that driving a car is basically riding a bike.

The line gets fuzzy when scenes are added to the show purely for product placement. In my mind that's an ad.

I do not recommend watching Transformers (the movies) for you.

The last (and final) one I watched (just to see how bad it was) had a 30 second (I am not shitting you) beer commercial complete with the signature Michael Bay 360 degree shot.

And not to mention the Chinese - "we must call central government" - pandering.

I saw the Age of Extinction, and it was probably the worst movie I've watched all the way through. It was just astonishingly bad, and the blatant product placement made it even worse.

Sure, and it makes me squirm a bit, but I can’t stop PP. even better reduces how much time I spend thinking critically about how I’m being manipulated, which is just a relief.

Except for product placement, and I suppose billboards, I just don’t see ads anymore. I don’t hear them in my music, they only exist as product placement in my television and movies, I don’t see them online. I’ll take that reduction any day, and just accept the total elimination is unlikely.

TV is not getting dumber, it's just your brain recovering from the abuse ;)

I have an iPhone, an Amazon Echo, and a Google Home device. I recently had to watch live TV because I was watching a sports game, and the number of ads that targeted my listening devices was obscene. Every other ad was either for the Echo or Home, or for something unrelated but mentioning 'Hey Siri, tell me about [product being sold]'.

To me, it feels like it's an effort to subvert the always-listening/always-watching tracking. If Google has now searched for some random thing being sold because of that ad, then those ads will be shown to me when I browse on my computer (since it's all part of the same profile).

It's intrusive, obnoxious, and I feel zero remorse doing anything to avoid ads (such as use an ad blocker).

>or for something unrelated but mentioning 'Hey Siri, tell me about [product being sold]'.

What? Seriously? Commercials try to hijack your devices? Isn't this fairly clear-cut unauthorized access of a computer system, and therefore criminal?

I think the GP means that the commercials show how you can ask Siri to search for their product.

I think GP means the ads are actually trying to activate the devices:

> If Google has now searched for some random thing being sold because of that ad, then those ads will be shown to me when I browse on my computer

This isn’t unheard of. Burger King pulled that stunt to great success: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/12/business/burger-king-tv-a...

Unauthorized access? Maybe if the commercial ordered something off Amazon using Alexa on your behalf.

A friend of mine has Google Home and it just doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest! Perhaps I just don’t know how to get the most out of it, but whenever I go to his I either just ask it dumb questions or get it to change the music - to his frustration...

I've become a bit too used to using the echo as an alarm clock (which I can set without turning on a screen or looking at a light) and for morning/evening news briefings, which is really just a proxy to NPR/BBC podcasts, but it's useful. It is definitely something that I wish there was a 'self hosted' version of that was anywhere near as capable.


If you comment like this again we'll ban the account. Please read the guidelines and start following them.


Comments like this inspire me to reach HN’s 500 upvote floor just so I can downvote you.

I appreciate your concern for comment quality, but please don't respond to a bad comment by posting another. That amounts to feeding trolls and the site guidelines ask you not to do it: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.

Instead, the thing to do is flag egregious comments, as described here: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html. You don't need nearly as much karma to do that, and we review most flagged comments.

Fifer82 59 days ago [flagged]

I got to 500 easy enough, I suggest decent posts.

Points on HN in 2017, is like reddit points in 2012, like 4chan in 2009. It has no value and you sleep like a baby whether hated or otherwise.

One or two good submissions that take off can net you 500 points. But hell, they're internet points, so they are approximately as valuable as dogecoin.

I'll just leave this here - dogecoins total market cap:

$746,599,233 USD

I am not surprised at this ad abuse at all, and nor should you be. These devices are made and sold by companies for whom user tracking and monitoring is their main business.


What an absolutely foolish reply. Do you shop on Amazon? Do you use Google search or Gmail? Do you watch Netflix? Do you use a credit card?

You have a thousand data points mined per day - an Echo or Google Home are no different from any other service that you may be interested in using. Especially as these devices are not "listening in" until their keyword activates them.

The biggest one I’m always reminded of is “Do you have a phone?”... The always-on, cloud-connected device that you carry everywhere at all times?

> The always-on, cloud-connected device that you carry everywhere at all times?

You're doing it wrong. ;-) It's easy to leave your tracking device plugged into the wall at home, just like a landline, or put it in "airplane mode" when you don't want to be tracked or bothered.

A phone can still track you even if location services are disabled [1], and it can be used to remotely listen to you even when powered off [2]. On my phone, airplane mode does not disable location services.

The only way to be certain that your phone is not tracking you, 24/7, would be to do as you suggest and leave it elsewhere. And even then, it can still be used to monitor conversations in its vicinity.

I'm not overly concerned about these things, but it's good to be aware of the ways that your device can track you.

[1] https://qz.com/1131515/google-collects-android-users-locatio...

[2] https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/even-if-theyre-off...

No. I don't have a phone. I don't need one. No one in the world at any time for any reason may simply interrupt my current cadence. If it is good news, I can wait, if it is bad news, I can wait. If it is part of a job, I want 20k, (so I don't get issued one).

Having a phone isn't a free pass to letting business into the home that will in the end use your habits to sell you those habits at a premium.

Cue the "I don't even own a TV crowd"....

97% of American Households own a television.


Then right behind them the "I don't subscribe to cable crowd and I don't understand why people do"

75% of households still have cable or satellite.


And I'm one of the 25% that don't subscribe to cable but I refuse to call myself a "cord cutter" because my entertainment still comes across a cord - it's just not coax.

I'm not sure if it's significant to the statistics, but Comcast has always given me an internet+cable package for cheaper than the internet by itself. So for my household, the cable box is just a big electronic coupon.

Yeah. For years, whenever the promotion ends, I ask for internet-only, and they counter with a discount if I keep cable tv. I'm certain they are doing this to artificially prop up the cable subscriber numbers. Content notwithstanding, the basic-basic tv service is so bad. You have to use their digital adapter becuase all the channels are encrypted and the picture is so bad becuase it is standard def coming over the analog input. The digital conversion happened 10yrs ago, why are they still expecting people to pay extra for HD? And even when you do pay for the HD service and special set-top box, the UI is terrible, and they compress the streams so it is not even the full quality anyway.

Comcast cable wasn't cheaper for me once I took into account all of the extra fees involved.

That smells fishy to me. I'd look for hidden fees and watch for price increases.

Fees for things like local channels and local sports are endemic now, and it seems the current stealth price increase in vogue is increased fees for mandatory equipment rental.

Yeah, They added and keep increasing the "broadcast tv fee", and added a fee for more than one digital adapter. So far still cheaper than Internet-only.

I own a television but it's never used as a 'television'. It's a screen with an Xbox connected on which I have Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and games.

So instead of watching content provided by the major networks over Coax delivered to you by one of the major ISPs, you watch content over TCP/IP brought to you by one of the major ISPs owned by the same content providers. Hulu is 30% own by Fox, Disney, and Comcast and the other 10% is owned by Time Warner.

You're still watching content on your television, over a wire, brought to you by the major content providers. What's the difference again?

I also subscribe to Netflix, commercial free Hulu, and commercial free CBS. But how I get my content isn't in a practical sense any different than a cable subscriber except for a lack of ads and I don't have to pay all of the extra fees.

I'm also not bothered about admitting I have 6 TVs throughout my house all with Rokus.

No Commercials: I don't see them. That's one of the biggest things about 'cord cutters'. You can't reach them with TV commercials. So, advertisers have to figure out another way to 'reach' me.

No Schedule: I watch what I'd like to when I'd like to. I never care what's 'on TV' or when something is scheduled. I watch things when I'm in the mood to and have the time to. The idea of specific weeknight lineups or specific programs bringing an audience to another seems silly and quaint.

No Access to Cable-Only Programming: I have no access to cable-only programming. If you lock your content down to your cable TV channel and your app that requires me to login with my cable account, I can't see it. And, no, I'm not going to pay $50 a month to get cable to see your TV show.

A majority of the time, if I'm sitting on the couch, I'm playing a game, watching YouTube, or watching a movie. So, yes, there's a pretty big difference between a typical TV watcher and a cord cutter in terms of advertiser reach, access to content, dollars spent, and schedule. As more folks take this approach, more of the industry has to adjust to keep pace.

You really don't see a difference between linear tv programming with 25% ads and on-demand ad-free streaming?

What's "linear" about cable TV? When I did have cable, I never watched live TV. Comcast has on demand on their settop boxes and on the web. I could also use the various channels apps with my cable subscription. After three or four days, the content was mostly commercial free. I believe because Neilsons only treats live +3 days as part of the ratings.

I'm in no way saying cable is better, the only reason I had was because we were forced to pay $99 a month for Comcast cable + tv when I was renting.

I would never do cable now. The 6 TVs I have around the house would cost $50 a month just in box rental fees and that doesn't include the HD technology, cost recovery, network access, and sports access fees.

FWIW, Time Warner Cable is no longer owned by Time Warner; it’s owned by Charter Communications and has been renamed to Spectrum.

97% of American Households own a television. Which is down from 98.9% since last year, and is the first decline in 20 years, according to the article.

And how many of the 3% who don't own a TV do you think also don't own a phone or computer that they use to stream content?

If I were staying on campus in a dorm room today, I probably wouldn't bother with a TV. I would have my laptop, phone, and/or tablet.

Which is why the Nintendo Switch is so genius. A home console that can appeal to people with a marginal interest in video games, but who don’t own a TV.

That whole 3%?

All the students/young professionals who consume their media on laptops/tablets and don’t feel the need to own a TV. There’s a lot of them.

Not according to the statistics I posted earlier....

But the larger question is "having a television" just semantics? My family was staying in an extended stay for awhile when we were having our house built. I had an external monitor I was using for work with my laptop. When I wasn't using it, my son was using it with his game console and to watch Hulu, Netflix, etc.

What's the practical difference between "not having a tv" and having a computer monitor used to watch video?

3% of the US is 10 million, which is how many Switches have been sold...

... 10 million units have been sold worldwide[0] so the total units sold in the US will undoubtedly be lower than that figure.

[0] https://www.polygon.com/platform/amp/2017/12/12/16766332/nin...

If you have kids who watch netflix, it's interesting how they recoil in disgust at advertising interrupting a show. And it carries over to YouTube too - if they see pre-roll they skip as soon as possible. It'll be interesting when they're teens what kind of media related app will be the 'it' app for them

The first time my nephew watched broadcast television he told us the television was broken and asked us to fix it.

"Really can't disagree with you there, kid."


The one good thing with ads on the web is that it works as a micropayment.

I wonder how a service like Youtube would work without ads ?

I currently have a no-ads subscription on Youtube (packaged with a google music, so it is pretty attractive to me) but I don't think this service would work as a gated subscribe only website.

Brendon Eich is working on "Brave Browser", which aims to use Ethereum to enable an ideal relationship between consumers, content producers, and advertisers.

A relationship that still includes advertisers is never ideal.

No ads unless each user opts in, then only:

0. Consent required for any ads at all, from user and (see 2) publisher if involved.

1. User private ads, anonymously confirmed (ANONIZE2 ZKP protocol, will move on-chain when Ethereum supports it). Ad placement is signal- and cookie-free, by a machine learning agent running only on device and looking at only your on-device data (private sync uses secret key, no data in clear on any servers), matching against common per region/language ad catalog listing edge urls + keywords per ad.

2. Revenue share of 70% to inventory (ad slot) owner, i.e., to the user in (1). If publishers partner on indirect ad slots p, pub gets 70%, user gets 15%. In all cases users gets at least as much as Brave gets.

So users of Brave block ads and trackers by default. If you want to contribute anonymously you can fund your user BAT wallet (we are doing initial grants). Pinned a la Patreon contributions as well as private pro data by view count and time send tokens in one transaction on chain per 30 days of uptime.

But when BAT ads are up and sharing revenue to users, the you can opt into those to fill your wallet. If you want to can out, you will be able to, but only via KYC (banking “Know Your Customer) level vetting. By default your revenue will flow back to your pinned and supported sites and creators.

We dont have Netflix, but we have HBO. So my kids watch Sesame Street, Pinky Dinky Doo, etc. They won't watch anything on Cartoon Network because of the commercials. In face, my kids have zero tolerance for commercials now.

We got YouTube Red because of the ads on iPad were out of control. It's insane the amount of commercials YouTube puts in a 10 minute clip of Busy Beavers, etc.

Since I'm a '92 edition, I grew up with Cartoon Networks. Back in the days of Ed, Edd and Eddy, Courage The Cowardly Dog, Scooby Doo, Road Runner and so on and I don't remember it having even half as much advertising as they do now. I wonder what changed.

Sounds great but the sad reality is that Netflix shows have commercials inside of them. I was really excited about this netflix show "love" until the macdonalds product placement inside of it just made me sick and i stopped watching it. I haven't been watching much original netflix shows since then, but whenever i feel like peeking into a new show i notice product placements pretty soon.

I don't really mind if the product placement is subtle, and they don't start shooting from different angles just to show the thing off.

If the protagonist is going to use a laptop computer anyways, I don't care if Apple or DELL paid them so it's going to be one of theirs.

30 Rock also had good product placement, often times making jokes about how forced a product placement in the show was.


That's actually pretty clever since it draws the viewer's attention and also associates good feelings (humor) with the brand. So it's a parody of product placement that also happens to be an extremely effective form of product placement. Smart.

I never understood why product placement upsets people so much. Unless the premise is pure fantasy or a completely alternate reality, real brands help more quickly get me past the sense artificiality that is drama/theater that suspends disbelief. I can get engrossed more quickly. When I see products that are similar and obvious knock-offs of a brand that avoids the name or trademark design, I'm immediately somewhat distanced again from the performance. I genuinely court it. Surely I'm not the only one who feels that way.

It upsets at least some people precisely because it often breaks suspension of disbelief. Not many people complain if the hero drives a cool real car or uses a Dell laptop, but it is irritating if the technician in a crime show is telling everyone how they are using "Microsoft Windows Photo somethingorother" to enhance the image of the suspect (when they've been using the typical TV made-up interface that looks totally different everywhere else), or they hold a glowing logo on a device always just in frame.

Agreed. I used to notice that there were many Microsoft products like the Surface in the show Arrow. But it was subtle enough that most people wouldn’t know unless they can recognize the logo on the device.

I don't mind it as "character in contemporary show eats Frosties cereal rather than shredies"

When Captain Kirk answers his Nokia phone while drinking his Budweiser, that's when I hate it.

Great show, in my opinion, loved it, if they make some extra money through product placement - good for them, I don't really care.

And then some shows really get the product placement right:


ALL shows have product placement. Some more blatant than others. You can't get around that.

Product placement in series and movies really break my heart, because it plain and simply taints the piece forever.

When it's released, sure, okay, so you do your product placement and get some extra cash to finance the series. Fine. But now, your series which hopefully is good enough to still be watched 20 years, 30 years from now has characters randomly bringing up how they drive an Audi and did you see that builtin navigation system or some bullshit like that.

Some TV series are works of art. Thankfully, those tend to not have product placements because they have a high budget to begin with. But sometimes, PP works itself into "classics" and that's when it's really upsetting.

I find just the opposite to be disconcerting. Back in the day, Some procedural cop show was talking about "FacePlace" as a stand in for Facebook.

Then again it sticks out like a sore thumb to me when shows you IP addresses that can't be valid....

I don't mind product placement if it's on topic. For example, using Google or Facebook when relevant or showing the brand logos of the PCs in an office.

It's when they take the time to show off their completely irrelevant windows tablet or car navigation system or worse. When it's blatant.

Heh, it gets better:


... for some definition of better.

Nothing disappoints me more than product placement in music videos of all places. I can understand the use of products in rap music, absolute obedience to brands and slavish desire for status symbols is very much a core of what rap is about, but just in general music it is often insulting to both the audience and the performer. I remember when that kid Greyson Chance had a YouTube video that made him famous because he is an amazing singer. He got a record deal and I was curious to see if he'd end up like the next generations Bob Dylan or a crooner or something with the voice he had. But of course, no, they turned him into a knockoff of Justin Bieber and filled his first music video with blatant product placements. I just hope he got enough money so that when he's older he doesn't regret selling his artistic integrity down the toilet before he was even an adult.

the way you talk about ‘rap’ (by which i assume you mean a superset of hip-hop) makes it sound like you really don’t know anything about it. blind brand obedience is absolutely not ‘a core’ of rap. Some very mainstream music featuring rap verses are that way, but your statement was far too broad.

Agreed, but just by the references, I assumed the poster was referring to the commercial rap / hip-hop world, and specifically to the popular club oriented segment.

What the poster said is pretty much true all around for anything in the most commercial space of music. "Country" music for instance has some pretty blatant product placement, too... but again, largely only at the most commercial space only (the radio-friendly arena-rockish style). Jason Aldean for instance got an endorsement from Coors, and actually changed a song lyric in one single from "Shiner Bock" to "Rocky Tops" as a result. (https://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/branding/1084513...). The same applies for the club friendly / arena side of electronic dance music. A large percentage of them will include product placements, particularly for club lifestyle type products and/or liquors of some sort.

Overall, product brand "name drops" have increased heavily in the lyrics of top pop music over the last 20 years (http://www.meiea.org/resources/Journal/Vol.14/Gloor-MEIEA_Jo... page. 48).

I personally find this type of product placement annoying, and prefer other strategies where companies gain presence without intruding into the music too much. (Red Bull IMHO is an example here: their focus tends to be on content marketing strategies, a strategy that has worked out well for them, and at least in music I find much less annoying).

On the other hand the cans of beans that had the word "Heinz" blacked out in 70s BBC programs are really distracting.

That is simply not true, firstly most cartoons and anime, but also other shows that come with a higher budget seem to be able to avoid product placements.

> That is simply not true, firstly most cartoons and anime...


Those are just the most obvious product placements, recognizable to folks who can't read all the little japanese labels on things that appear in the background.

There are also shows which are nothing but vehicles for products.

Some animated shows, like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Frisky Dingo, did great jobs of using product placement as a comedic part of the show.

Interestingly enough, Fight Club managed to put every product placement right next to sad or violent imagery.

That's because those are the product. Pokemon is the best example of this. I will concede that shows like Game of Thrones are very good at avoiding this, but I'm tempted to propose that shows like that exist to sell HBO subscriptions.

They also have a whole lot of merchandise available.

Didn't Hasbro and Tomy create Transformers explicitly as a marketing/ sales vehicle?

Transformers, G.I. Joe, Strawberry Shortcake, He-Man, My Little Pony... all either toys first or simultaneously created as toys. Usuaslly a good giveaway is when Hasbro or Mattel is mysteriously the creator of the show.

Of course this isn't just a Western phenomenon, the video game/anime/movie/card game/merchandise extravaganza that is and always was Pokemon being probably the best single example.

There are a few shows like Chuck that were basically saved by blatant product placement. It's funny to watch - breaks the illusion for a moment - but knowing the story behind how it basically saved the show makes it worth it for the fans.

Oh man, Chuck was awesome! I'm adding it to the list of shows to re-watch.

...unless you live in basically any western country (except the US) that have high quality Public Service TV, where commercials and product placement is not allowed.

The FX show Baskets has its product placement front and center the entire time. It's hilarious and I don't mind one bit though.

Just finished Lala Land, didn’t notice any.

I always thought House of Cards had some of the most bizarre ones. I can't remember anything too blatant in Love, but I only got a few episodes into the second season before dropping it out of boredom.

I actually didn't notice the McD placement, but I swear every episode namedropped Uber very, very obviously.

Real life has product placement every time you go outside in civilization. I'm getting upset about you guys getting upset over something so trivial.

Edit: read further down and I have to say that I've never seen (or noticed) anything so blatant as characters going on about features of a car. That would indeed be frustrating.

> Real life has product placement every time you go outside in civilization. I'm getting upset about you guys getting upset over something so trivial.

That's a false equivalence and a poor way to think about things.

People making those real-life product placements are not deliberately placing those products in view of others in exchange for money for the sole purpose of manipulating viewers to buy said product. I agree with the GP. At least with ads you know that you're being manipulated.

If they treated a product just the way they would have treated it in real life I probably would not be upset. But that is usually not the case. Companies that pay money usually require special treatment. If you are lucky, it would be the camera lingering on the product for a long time. Or perhaps the product being painted in extra bright colors (I saw some Fedex boxes that were specially painted for product placement on a set once, they were so bright I literally could not look away from them. )

But if you are less lucky it would be completely disruptive to the world the show or movie is trying to create. For example, in the show love, the silverlake hipsters that the show took such long pains to describe would have never touched mcdonalds. Yet in the show they go around saying how great it is.

It's not the same thing, product placement is paid for by the brand. And it's upsetting because it's deceitful - designed to appear to be something other than it is, legitimate use.

Meanwhile in the UK... there tends to be a lot less advertisements on TV, and when shows from the US are played, there are points where they left room for an ad-break, which isn't used. For the ultimate in no-advertising, you just watch a BBC channel. Apparently there is a limit of 9 minutes of advertising per hour according to this document from the regulator... https://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv-radio-and-on-demand/broadcast-co...

Afaik most countries in Europe have at least a couple of TV stations that are really restricted when it comes to commercials. Usually supported by the government and/or citizens.

I remember that we could receive government funded Austrian ORF 1 in Germany. They usually showed the same movie as other German commercial TV stations at the same time but without ads. Saving around 1 hour per movie.

There also is (was?) a daily limit on advertising for german stations, even commercial. Thus barely any ads at night. Some shows even had to be classified as add due to heavy product placement, so we barely got any other adds that day.

And on the main channels, the limit is 7 mins/hour - these are averages across the day, but there are further restrictions for children's programming, including that programmes of 30 mins or less cannot be interrupted by adverts.

My kids know about three channels

"Bbc" (watching "do they know" at the moment) "Amazon" "Netflix"

We went to the cinema to watch Paddington last month. They had barely any idea what the adverts before the film were.

Do they still do adverts on DVDs of films? It was a pain because you couldn't skip them. Guess that's why stuff like Netflix is so popular...

Not on the props pig one they watched in the car today - some unskippable logos and copyright warnings that annoy me and remind me why I rip dvds to the home NAS, but no adverts.

Yet rarely watch dvds. I've noticed Amazon has adverts on their fire tv stick on some shows though, but we use the built in lg tv app which doesn't.

well from personal experience, Disney DVDs (used to) have adverts at the start trying to get you to watch every other Disney film every made, and they either blocked skipping or made it incredibly hard to skip to the start of the actual video.

"Disney Fastplay" rings a bell. It's rare we watch one, and I pop the disc in while we're getting ready to sit down. Not great, but they did learn.

My kids are netflix babies and when I gave them a toys r us catalog to look through to pick Christmas gifts out of they looked at it for 2 minutes, threw it aside and didn't ask for anything. Without commercials, they have no sense that they should even want the crap in a toy catalog. Big difference from when I was growing up.

Do they cry when you tell them spoilers?

On a serious note, I'm not sure how you managed to pull this off as a parent. Two weeks ago I saw a young child of Asian tourist parents in the streets of Manhattan, standing in front of a major chain drugstore and excitedly flagging down the parents to bring attention to a prominently displayed colorful plastic dump truck placed in the window display, precisely at baby level.

I want to figure out how to keep my future kids from doing that.

My kids are the same. They still want the various go jetters and paw patrol toys because that's the actual program.

> My kids are netflix babies

The times we live in...

Naw, kids from Netflix homes are just watching long-form commercials. Dino Trucks, Nexo Knights and Ninjago all dominate my boys' Christmas wish lists this year.

Ha. Reminds me of reading stories about Japanese children's robot hero tv shows in the 90s where the merchandise planning came before the tv show creation itself!

That's kind of an inversion of who's leading things, but kids television and the toy industry have always gone hand in hand. Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers and HeMan were cartoons before they were toys (I think...) but it was all about the merchandising.

He-Man was an action figure made by Mattel. TMNT started as a comic book, but from what I understand was a parody of popular things; Teenagers, Mutants, Ninjas...not sure why turtles were thrown in there. TMNT didn't get gain popularity until they started making action figures.

I hadn't ever thought of TMNT as being a parody, at least not in original Eastman and Laird form - I missed most of it, but parts of it were pretty dark, particularly Raphael's character IIRC.

I got introduced to it by way of Palladium's adoption of the world/setting as an RPG, who expanded the world with a whole bunch of amazing sourcebooks that never went anywhere near the silliness of the later incarnations involving "COWABUNGA DUDE!".

real money is in merchandising. george lucas understood that. even elon musk understood that recently ;)

If you haven't seen it, Musk was quoting a great scene in Mel Brook's Spaceballs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgRFQJCHcPw#t=36

at least Lego is a reasonably healthy toy, right?

I'm a little disturbed how far in they've gone on the licensed content. But I'm a child of the 90s that grew up with the classic System themes; I guess kids aren't into non-Star Wars space, castle, pirate and Wild West Legos anymore.

Lego city is still popular, and playmobil do a large selection of various castles.

The kits with multicolored bricks and no instructions are healthy. Everything else LEGO puts out are just action figures.

Source: grew up with both Bionicles and the multicolored bricks. Bionicles sat put together on a shelf while I reconfigured the bricks every day.

I watched a lot of TV and commercials as a young kid on Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Disney channels, commercials ranging from baby dolls, batman and Lego. I wanted a lot of the stuff they showed on TV, and I got gifted a lot, but not everything. I come from a middle class norwegian family which meant that we could afford a lot of toys and stuff, but not everything at once. I don't think it influenced me that much, but I certainly tried to influence my parents to buy the crap which I had seen on TV. In retrospective, I wish my parents had said "no" more to the crap I wanted and received, I didn't need it at all and it was all a matter of my parents saying "no" more.

One of the biggest blessings in disguise for me was not having much money as a child[1]. From the moment we left college, I've made more money than all of my close friends, and I somehow spend the least as well. We've talked pretty openly about income and budgeting as we all entered adulthood and learned our way around personal finance, and it's been fascinating to me to see how wanting to purchase unnecessary things is this vice that my friends consistently struggle with, to varying degrees. I don't have especially good willpower: I just seem to be missing that urge almost entirely. My lifestyle is far from ascetic, but the value bar for making something tempting to buy is just set way higher for me for some reason. I buy everything I feel like; I just don't tend to feel like things unless I think I'll get a lot of enjoyment/value out of them relative to their price. In retrospect, a couple years of disappointment before getting used to my mom saying "no" to most purchase requests was a pretty small price to pay for not constantly struggling against urges to spend irresponsibly.

It's not about ads making you want stuff, it's about ads setting a frame of reference for your kids. For example, ad for Barbie would may teach kids that looking beautiful is very important. Or ads for bazooka may teach that having and operating guns is fun. Or that simply collecting something is cool. It is not a secret how Disney has ruined lives of countless little girls by continually brainwashing them about being princess whose sole purpose is to look good and attract a prince. They have had massive contribution in turning off little girls from pursuing intellectual endeavors. Ads are teaching your kids what should be desirable and what is good for them.

The worst part about TV commercials for toys is the jingles for the toys are still with me all these years later. I really should be using that part of my brain for something else.

I was thinking about this the other day, and I was wondering whether the fact that my kids are not exposed at all to commercials might make them more susceptible to advertising when they grow up.

Anecdata: When I, on occasion, use the internet someone else's computer, who does not have an ad blocker, I'm horrified. "THIS is the internet they live with?!" They typically seem not to notice the ads, or accept them as the status quo.

So, my hypothesis is that exposure to ads does not have any benefits. I would not extend this hypothesis to product placement, however.

Probably not. Children are constitutionally defenseless against advertising so it's doubtful that childhood exposure to advertising is helpful.

Alternatively it might make them less tolerant and therefore less susceptible. I'm wondering the same about my kids, as we cut the cord several years ago.

As a viewer, I get minimal entertainment and no value from them, and having cut the cord long ago, I find them irritating. I'm hoping my kids grow up to be irritated or intolerant of commercials as well.

A friend of mine has two kids <= 5 years old who have grown up using Netflix. They saw cable TV for the first time when visiting a relative for the holidays, and he was worried that they seemed to have a lot of trouble distinguishing ads from content.

I suppose it's a good thing to teach. How else are kids supposed to know? How do kids who grew up with broadcast and cable ads learn to tell them apart?

Anecdotally, 6-yo is only exposed to commercials when we stay in hotels and she finds them insufferable.

Implying that watching more advertisements helps you develop a tolerance for it.

It does in a way. When I watched standard tv programmes years ago, the ads would be a thing you have to go through, and try to ignore. Now they're not tolerable - I'll choose not watching something over watching it with ads. Not sure if it makes me more susceptible to ads I do see (unlikely, I barely but anything anyway), but it limits the exposure a lot.

The communist country I grew up in had TV commercials too, but their commercial blocks came with 'begin' and 'end' jingles and were called 'Economy-propaganda programs.' Calling a spade a spade!

I watched the Monty Python Spam video a bunch with my 4 year old, and since then taught her to yell "Shut up!!!" at all sorts of ads or commercials.

Alternatively, I can envision them being more skeptical about advertisements. It'd be great to see some long-term studies done on this.

A hormesis theory of advertising? I think it’s more likely to be a linear exposure model.

My kid has three years and because of me always watched Netflix Kids. Tried Youtube Kids but too much "infomercials" and weird videos.

We went to grandmas house and once the commercials started he said:

"Daddy take this out.. This take out"

And I was kind surprise. He did not have the concept of Commercials and hate it.

Now I think about myself, having to wait commercials and be woke up at certain time to watch my favorite cartoons.

Love it, I only wish it was possible to have a password on Netflix Profiles.

Every minute a kid watches a stupid Netflix kids show is a wasted minute they can be stimulating their brain positively instead of numbing it with manufactured industrialized content.

Having said that my kids do get a couple hours on the weekend and it's actually fascinating to see what happens when they put the iPad away. It's almost like they need a half hour or so to re-adjust to real life after all the stupid content they just watched.

Then they go outside and do what kids do best - be kids.

No offense but you sound like my aunt who would tell me all the time that video games would make me stupid. But I wouldn't be working in tech today if it wasn't for my passion for video games.

(note: I also limit screen time for my kids)

Watching TV and play video games have not the same effects on the brain. Watching TV puts your brain in idle mode

Depends on the show. A lot of media is incredibly stimulating and stick with you for hours or days (or more) after you've watched it.

Even complex shows like Game of Thrones can be stimulating simply because of the complexity, even if it's nothing more than made-up stories. And stuff like Blue Planet or Black Mirror are genuinely thought-provoking.

I don't disagree -- but why do we value reading books so much over watching TV? Aren't you consuming stories passively in both cases? (let's say reading Harry Potter vs watching Harry Potter)

Because skills gained from reading fiction transfer relatively easily into more productive pursuits: studying, programming, writing. Not to mention that reading isn't "consuming stories passively". You need to develop an imagination and draw pictures in your head.

It's hard(er) to develop useful skills from TV watching; the only thing I can think of is maybe learning about filmmaking, and that's only if you're watching to learn rather than watching passively.

I read mostly fiction as a kid and owe most of my career to my reading and writing skills.

When you're reading books your brain is working on visualizing what you've just read

Well, I realize you may be playing devil's advocate, otherwise I'm sure you know the answer yourself: why do you (as you said before) limit your kids screen time? Do you also limit their book reading time?


Lots of studies on video games show cognitive benefits, actually[1]. I seriously doubt all video games are cognitively beneficial, but it's ludicrous to just dismiss them all as a monolith.

Most of the people who are paranoid about video game "screen time" seem to just be extremely ignorant, and unwilling and/or disinterested in alleviating that ignorance. They've already decided that video games are garbage for the brain, and no amount of "facts" or "science" are gonna change their minds.

1 - https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201502/co...

There's simply no need for them. The world and life in general are full of so much experiences and activities that wasting life away on a couch playing video games is simply not the best use of ones time. That's just my opinion. The only downside we see as parents is that it's very difficult to get our kids on playdates with other kids because all their friends want to do is sit in front of a screen. My kids don't even see that as having a good time, for them it's a chore. Seriously, I just don't get kids these days. My kids can't even play tag with most others in their classes because they're so out of shape. Sad times.

> There's simply no need for them.

Then there's no need for books or TV or Movies either. Entertainment comes in many forms and discriminating against one particular form is ignorant.

I like how you just ignored the cognitive benefits I brought up because it's too inconvenient to your narrative.

Thanks for confirming what I suggested: people like you have already made up their minds, facts be damned.

> producing video games that make people stupid

Why are you such a pessimist? Not all video games make people stupid. In fact, some strategy / simulation games actually require a fair bit of work.

> No offense but you went ... to producing video games that make people stupid ...

Where did the GP say they make video games? Maybe they do, but I don't think you know, and you shouldn't assume.

Worse - he works at Netflix :)

What does that readjustment period look like to you? Pure curiosity.

It's like watching someone come down from a high. Technically they are doing just that. They get pretty intense, very demanding, can't handle the calmness and relatively (to the stupid show they just watched) quiet environment. And they know it too. Both my kids express that finishing watching shows on the iPad doesn't make them feel good. They're very aware of it. Now that it's nice out they would rather skip it altogether and go on a hike early in the morning, so I don't mind so much when they do opt for an iPad kind of morning once in a while.

My son is going through the exact same thing! My theory is that there’s a dopamine adaption going on, or sthg like that. For him, it’s the same with audio books or digital games btw. The longer he consumes content, the longer the cool-down phase lasts after that, though the max duration is about 15 minutes — after that he is fine. What he does differs everytime, but it ranges from swearing to crying to just poking at food with an absent look, saying nothing.

How do they go with reading? Seems like a balance between stimulation and calm.

They love reading. Going to the library to return and find new books to read is one of their favorite activities.

More time away from screens and engaging with reality, is surely a good thing. But while they are focused on screens (hardly avoidable quite yet) the less corporate propaganda that gets installed onto developing brains the better.

I just wanted to say that I agree. I live in Denmark where we have public service TV for kids which is orders of magnitude better than the crap on Netflix.

i grew up in a ghetto and kids with no computers or limited screen time were more involved in the gangs.

I've been almost entirely commercial/advertising free for years now.

Not gonna lie, it isolates you from mainstream society a bit. Whether that is good or bad is debatable.

I’ve had the same isolation experience after kicking Facebook 3ish years ago. Also, it seems to have only gotten more isolating since. My wife effectively has to operate as a proxy between most of our family/friends and me, which is not a position she enjoys, and is not a position I intended on her being in.

I still come out with advertising jingles from the 90s that embedded themselves in my conscious as a teenager. No idea if those jingles exist now - I did make a effort to watch the Christmas adverts, m&s, John Lewis, Tesco, bbc, Sainsbury's etc, on YouTube. I also make a conscious effort to look at movie trailers, and indeed let YouTube play past the first 5 seconds on trailers of films that I don't know about and look interesting.

It's good.

Every time someone is like: “what? You don’t have cable you weird person you!” This is why. Got tired of paying a premium for commercials and over the years the commercial breaks got longer, and longer and longer.

Hey cable subscribers...go ahead and channel surf and take some stats on how often a commercial is playing as you iterate through each channel.

It’s ridiculous. Netflix is alright with me.

I'm a cable subscriber. I haven't watched an ad in nearly 20 years. DVRs solved the ad problem years and years go.

(don't get me wrong—Netflix is great, too. And also torrents. Not even thinking about ads is better than fast forwarding through them).

I used to have a DVR and it did help of course. But I was never fond of having to pay the rental fees of the unit for this feature. True it is still better.

My family and I 'cut the cord' in 2005, back when Netflix meant DVDs, and other than access to sports, we haven't missed TV at all.

These days we use an Apple TV 4th Gen, with only Netflix, Plex and KPBS apps, and I believe my kids are better off for it. They still have access to way too much TV, but at least we know what they're seeing.

Unlimited streaming has its own problems, because your kids know it's never impossible for them to watch their favorite show, unlike with the bad old days of Saturday morning cartoons and just a handful of OTA TV stations. You can just say no, of course, but it's easier when you don't have to.

Actually, the entire Internet kinda presents the same problem for adults and personal willpower.

The 'problem' with willpower is not temptation. Temptation is only a problem for those with no willpower who paradoxically want to believe that they do. There are two solutions. Either study philosophy and come to understand why you act the way you do and seek to modify that if desired... or actually evaluate the real consequences of your actions and decide if whatever their label might end up being whether the consequences are actually worth being worried or ashamed about. Most often, people are worried about things that harm no one, making their worry absolutely meaningless.

This would be fantastic news if the content was anything worthwhile. At the end of the day, I'm not sure I care whether the kid is watching commercials or some other inane show. It's still passive consumption.

Personally, of course I want less commercials. But being able to consume more per minute isn't necessarily a good thing, IMO.

My kids watched a show his morning which explained where eggs came from, and what happens when they are heated - how the proteins change shape, how the outside heats faster than the inside, etc. Also how bread is made, both manually, then showed automated kneading (this is a show aimed at under 6s, so anything beyond proteins changing shape seems excessive)

Yes it's passive, but it's still better than brainwashing then to buy McDonald's

This is one of the biggest advantage of not having an actual TV in the house. We watch everything on demand ad-free on YouTube, Netflix, Xfinity Streaming and Prime Video. The ads on TV even in kids specific programs are horrible. On non-kids programs it's absolutely something kids shouldn't be watching.

Another huge advantage of not having actual TV in house is that we need to watch everything on PC or tablet. This adds friction in the process compared to just taking remote and press button. Also small kids typically will need parents help to watch anything instead of just starting to flip channels by themselves and exposing themselves to all commercial nastiness in very early age.

Finally, once everything you want to watch is on demand, you have very different mindset. You never rush for specific time to watch TV. Time after dinner can be some activity. There is no compulsion that you must be first to watch GoT right along your friends. All that silly competition dies out. Now a days we watch many movies and TV series many years after they have been released and we absolutely don't feel as if we missed out by not watching right when they came out. Entertainment exists for us instead of other way around.

I pity parents who still haven't figured this out and have actual TV sets in their houses.

One side-effect of all these commercials is to shorten the attention span of viewers. I feel that kids are taught to only get into a thought/storyline for a maximum of 8 minutes then switch mental contexts 4 to 8 times before returning to that original story. While I have no evidence about it, I don't see how this can be healthy. In contrast my children watch shows with episodes ranging from 12 minutes to full-length movies of 1h30 without interruption.

I don't watch much TV, but my wife watches a lot of these shows. The product placement is fairly blatant, and the storylines themselves seem very materialistic.

What if this is not a replacement of advertisement as much as it is a more thoroughly integrated form of it?

I mean, which would you rather be: The guy who pays for a blatant ad that is segregated from the content, or the guy with a slick PR rep who gets your product glowingly mentioned inside the content?

Ahead of the curve here, we had TiVo and MythTV before the kids were old enough to work the remotes. From way back then:

"Why can't we watch it again?"

"Pause this while I go to the bathroom."

"Hey, look, is that a toy?"

"Dad, why do people put up with commercials?"

And now that they're teenagers: "Dad, did you remember to record that show that I forgot the name of and didn't remind you to set the recording?"

I guess some things don't change.

This is great. The next generation will view ads as abnormal.

I don't think ads will ever go away, so my main hope is that ad targeting gets so good that the industry is able to make the same amount of money (or less!) while showing 10x fewer ads. Humanity is paying a huge cost at the moment for inefficient ad placement.

Or make 10 times as much with the level of adverts people are apparently happy with now.

Which do you think is more likely?

You'd hope. The more likely future is one where the next generation will not be able to distinguish advertising from content anymore.

Didn't ads start out as integrated with content? A combination of government intervention and advertisers themselves transitioned from sponsoring a specific program with heavily integrated content (live-reads) to more polished, structured, fungible advertising of the 30-second spot.

I wouldn't be surprised if it evolves again. You already see podcasts going from sponsored live-reads to injecting ads per-download. For better or worse, this allows lower-volume (local and more targeted?) ads instead of large companies who are one of a handful of sponsors for the whole show.

> The average child watches 2.68 hours of television a day, or almost 980 hours a year

That’s unusual. And it just reminds me of how different other people’s lives could be. When I grew up, no one in the family liked watching television. I still remember buying DVDs and watching those, but just not regular television programming.

That's the confusing thing about averages. My experience was on the other end of the spectrum: I watched TV quite a lot more growing up.

I think it would be more helpful to have a min max and mode than a mean.

Median too. On average both Bill Gates, you and I are billionaires.

On the other hand, Kids in Netflix only homes are probably not exposed to news and world events that does not come from Facebook and Twitter and other filtered media. They are probably not exposed to opposing or uncomfortable opinions and views.

Those Netflix only homes should at least get PBS.

I'd argue that news is not for kids, unless it is specifically tailored to them (eg the German public kids TV channel has special kids news (and no ads)). It is easier to learn about the world's problems from less explicit sources. News can be worse than horror films, which are at least known to be fictional.

I'm not really sure what you mean. It's actually frustrating how tame the news is, at least in the US. If they actually showed the effects of war, the public would be able to be more rational about the consequences.

I actually grew up watching PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

I grew up watching newsround, which is aimed at 10-15 year olds. There's a massive difference between that and say the Ten oClock news, but there a massive difference between the one, six and ten.

I would expect the Ten to have far more in depth and gruesome stories than newsround. 10 year olds don't need to know the minutiae of human trafficking.

I would take a more nuanced approach: I agree that Kindergardeners are probably better off without news. But maybe 2nd graders and up should be exposed to the news . Most of the images on evening newscasts are normally sanitized ; they are definitely not at par with horror films. Filtering out images of hunger, poverty and suffering will lead to a ignorance and denial about these issues when they grow up.

Well, try explaining for a 2nd grader the concept of nuclear weapons, and why people seem afraid of NK having them.

yeah, that was my first thought too. pbs only would be much better: free, not tailored for binge watching, and the cartoons actually end at some point-- on the regular pbs channel at least.

Father speaking here - kids are on youtube, being pushed way more commercials than ever before.

Isn't it you responsibility to push adblock in your kids?

Firefox for Android can block ads... But yes, it's much harder with tablets and phones..

Yes, I'm pushing back. My statement was a response to the article, title of which suggests that "just by switching from TV to Netflix we reduce children's exposure to commercials". This statement is incorrect, as the kids are on YouTube anyways, so little to no savings are done here.

I recently setup piHole to do DNS based blocking of YouTube ads. At first I set it up for the whole network, but then my Amazon Shopping app misbehaved. So I set it up just for my Nvidia Shields that we watch YouTube on.

It had a couple glitches at first, but has been working very well.

Took the family to see a kids movie yesterday. There was an like 30 minutes of ads at the beginning. I don't think they realise how jarring that is and how that's not something I want my kids to experience. Will reconsider going next time.

Normally films are Adverts-Trailers-Film

The trick is to arrive near the start of the trailers - they are adverts, but personally I think they add to the cinema experience, as does overpriced popcorn. The adverts though should be destroyed - just add 50p to the ticket, it's not going to change anyone's decision of whether to go or not.

Why is it just limited to kids?

It saves adults too.

Sure, an adult might switch channels during a commercial but your time is still wasted because now you're filling the gap with random surfing rather than consuming the content you're interested in.

It honestly surprises me at how cable providers managed to exist for so long without getting a backlash from its customers.

A 1 hour show on American TV typically only has 42 minutes of actual content. The other 18 minutes are filled with commercials.

You are losing 30% of that 1 hour off your life, not only that but you're paying a premium to receive it. After removing special promo prices even basic cable from most major providers is a lot more expensive than streaming services.

In Germany we have public, non-commercial television channels for kids like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KiKa

My parents would always agressivly mute commercials when i was a kid. I'm pretty glad they did.

Yeah, I also trained my kids from an early age to hit the mute button when a commercial comes on. Without that magic button we can't possibly watch live TV.

Delivering ad-free content is potentially a billion-dollar business. I'd be happy to pay a flat fee and read articles online, watch TV, movies, documentaries et cetera ad-free. Off course, some content services offer this. The problem is twofold: "new" services I discover still give me ads, and I need to subscribe to many services to get ad-free content.

I much rather have one service I pay to resulting in many content providers allowing me to consume ad-free content.

So we checked into a hotel today and my 4 year old decided to try TV for the first time. His was initially frustrated with the time it took for him to find a channel he thought he would like (Disney Junior). He had to hop through a ton of channels and missed a few kid friendly channels as Ads were playing on them.

Finally he found Disney Junior, and then the whole ad thing started. He was so frustrated with all the ad breaks, he switched off the TV. Enough said.

I can't watch normal cable TV anymore with all the commercials. I honestly think there are more commercials and they're longer these days.

Commercials are mental cancer. Online ads are mental cancer.

Cancer pays.

People like money.

People are selfish.

They will opt for seeking for payment from cancer when given the option.

looking at you google

I think I might be the only person I know that doesn't mind regular TV commercials. They're actually 100x less annoying than your average online commercial.

When I'm watching casual TV (not a serious drama or a movie) I don't mind the interruption. Gives me a chance to think about something else, check my phone, talk to someone, or walk away.

At least with broadcast TV, you see different commercials once in a while. Streaming, I usually see the same three ads played in a row every break. It makes me actively hate and have negative associations with whatever product they are trying to push.

I don't get watching tv with commercials. When I watch a show it's because I'm interested in the show. I don't want to be jarred out of the narrative to think about something else, even pressing the fast forward button.

We've been a no-tv family since forever. We do have a Netflix subscription (though we do find the selection of shows and movies too small, but still...)

My kids have a genuine aversion to commercials. With Netflix and YouTube, they can watch content they choose without the constant interruption and"garbage time" of TV.

Someone told me a conversation he happened to overhear in a restaurant in LA. This was like 10+ years ago. He was having lunch at a restaurant and next to him were 2 gentlemen working in the TV industry. The conversation was about how the TV station/channel decided to increase ad time and this forced them to re-edit all TV shows to be shorter.

One negative aspect of netflix is that my kids just endlessly scroll through show after show, but doesn't actually watch it. And when they do, they rarely finish it (meaning really enjoy or get into the show). It's like when you don't really enjoy food when you have too much of it easily accessible.

So this new year, I'm even cutting netflix streaming service. Will see how that goes.

Okay so here i am, jumping on the "look at me, no tv in more than five years!" train.

I don't even own a tv. When i visit my parents and watch tv, quite frankly, it's 95% trash + 5% stuff i have already seen on the Internet (but badly translated in my native language).

PBS Kids has done the same in our home... and it's free (just need an antenna)...

Can't service providers just offer completely ad-free experience to those willing to pay the price that would make this kind of subscriptions commercially viable?

The exception has been the emergence of YouTube content which is not a normal advertisement but designed to hold you or your children's attention.

This six year old child is making millions of dollars: http://wgntv.com/2017/12/11/this-6-year-old-is-making-millio...

Is there any foolproof way of detecting if some video or audio is a commercial or not?

A TV tuner that just replaces commercials with a placeholder image and a countdown to when the break is over would make broadcast TV just about tolerable for me. (time-shift, and skipping past commercials is a better solution, but there's some things you want to see live)

Now Netflix just needs to accommodate kid's 3-5 minute attention span, which is reason for YouTube's popularity - along with the quick and easy selection of related content.

Then they could take over, and make parents much happier.

Maybe even happy enough to pay an extra $1.99 a month for trustworthy content curation?

> Now Netflix just needs to accommodate kid's 3-5 minute attention span

My 2yro just sat through the Nutcracker the other week. He sits and listens to about half an hour of Dune each night. (We're just about to finish Dune Messiah.) Sure I don't know how much he comprehends, but he's not fidgeting or trying to find toys to play with.

He will also sit and build with Duplo-style bricks or wooden trains for hours, and with those there is a visible engagement metrics.

(And yes, he does have his moments, and times where he does like to go from thing to thing, but it's not constant just like the long spans of attention aren't constant.)

I know it's n=1, but I don't believe that kids have an inherit and maximal 3-5 minute attention span.

Kinda sorta get this with kindle fire and the kindle family or whatever it is called. There are some videos for the kiddo based on age.. for little kids you get the 3 minute nursery rhymes. $2 or $3 a month.

There are 2 shows everyone seems to be talking about: Netflix and Bitcoin.

I need to tell my wife to record them on the VDR.

> The average child watches 2.68 hours of television a day, or almost 980 hours a year

This is a very sad statistic. I cannot imagine what this non-stop television consumption is doing to their brains. I am guessing this does not include the tablet screen time which is another 3 hours per day or so.

It's pretty horrible - I grew up with about that much per day. I grew up pretty successfully however I would have to admit that success is only due to everyone else my age growing up like that. If I had to live by the rules of the people we call fuddy-duddies we'd be totally f'd. The older generation takes more time to do tasks right, spends time to talk to each other on the phone, has a much stronger sense of belonging to the community around them. I know this might get down-voted but it's absolutely true.


In case anyone else does not know.

I am curious to see if kids in "Netflix Only" homes spend more time watching shows because of binging. When I had Netflix, I found myself watching more than I normally would.

Add YouTube red (free with Google play music) for the family, and some NPR presets on the radio, and the worst you'll hear are the terrible underwriting credits...

It's been great!

Quality public broadcasting solved this in Europe a while ago.

I wonder how many hours of commercials a year are watched in homes where ipads are the main source of entertainment; I’d wager it’s up there with regular television.

considering YouTube makes me watch 25 seconds of advertising for a 40 second video... could be a lot.

YouTube has a skip ad button after 5 seconds, and I'm not convinced there's an advert on every clip (at least on the YouTube app on phone - obviously no adverts on the desktop)

uBlock Origin, Decentraleyes, Privacy Badger. You are not obligated to watch ads. Don't fall for the lie. Your computer, your rules. Google are already rich enough.

not just youtube, but all those free to play games too.

Maybe kids should just stare at a screen less and go outside

Our kids only watch Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube. A couple days ago, my 8 year old son asked me what Pepsi was. I consider that a good sign.

TV is destined to disappear. Alvin Toffler predicted it: mass produced solutions are not a thing in the post industrial age.

Tubi TV takes the opposite direction, free subscription + ads. Which model do you think most people will prefer?

But of course if you are a Hulu-only home you get 2X the ads and worst quality than TV.

Children watch 2.6 hours if TV / day ? That sounds too much!

Imagine how our surroundings would look like if there were absolutely no ads.

I mean, I guess that's an improvement, but that's a lot of TV.

Too bad the kids couldn't be saved from Netflix.

I wish I could inject the following in the Netflix html through a proxy at home..

>> Mental Health General's Statutory Warning <<<

>> Binge watching is injurious to kids health <<<

Who's the marketing genius at Neflix to come up with this meme?

Or Kodi only

Time to double down on product placement.

Product placement is difficult in the shows I watch most: The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, Vikings. Luxury items don't and didn't exist in the aforementioned shows.

I watch TV sitting with a laptop. I mute during the commercials and look at whatever for 2-3 minutes and return to watching. Done this for decades.

I will likely go straight Internet connection in 2018 once I figure out how to get BBC and BBC America.

The Walking Dead had a longtime product placement deal with Hyundai. Although it was much ridiculed, much of the point of product placement is to cause positive associations to be made between the product and the setting.

Many people may not have thought of a Hyundai as a rough-and-tumble kind of car, but seeing it in such a setting normalizes that association ever so subtly, not unlike why repetition is an effective strategy to commit something to memory.

Good point. My brother, a veteran, will not own a Kia because of the Killed in Action acronym. I cannot blame him.

I live in a 'Netflix free' home -- I watch as many commercials a year as a any kid in a 'Netflix only' home. It's not clear to me why the article assumes that not having Netflix means you're consuming commercials.

That makes no sense. Kids who watch Netflix get zero ads. Kids who watch commercial television are bombarded with ads.

PBS makes great content with zero ads, aside from a five second blurb about "our sponsors and viewers like you" between shows. They also broadcast over antenna, so you don't even need a cable subscription to watch it (and conveniently, if you only have antenna, you're spared from all the garbage and only get PBS + local news).

That depends. I live in a country where there are public channels (state funded) and private channels. Only the latter show ads.

That’s not what I call “commercial TV”. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has a corporate arm, but it’s not for Broadcasting.

Would you care to unpack that? The interesting thing about personal anecdotes is when they provide context as to your experience. How many commercials did you watch a year? Do you have a TV? Do you choose not to any media at all? Only movies? How do you compare your experience to others?

The important point is the list of alternatives you provide yourself: a statement worded in this way "kids on netflix only homes are being saved from 230 hrs of commercials a year" apparently implies two alternatives -- either "netflix only" or "being exposed to 230 hrs of commercials a year". There are, however, a lot more alternatives, and you list some of them.

Please don't just drive by taking potshots at headlines that aren't written the way you want them to be. Read the article. Post something substantive. Engage. Share.

The article doesn't assume that. Those were the results of the study, and it's specific to Iran.

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