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Punters 'pooh-pooh video on demand'

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Viewers can't cope with the enormous responsibility of choice that personal video provides, according to US researchers at Hill Holliday.

Five Bostonian families had their access to broadcast video cut entirely over Christmas and replaced with the latest video-on-demand technology. Deciding what to demand proved more than most of them wanted - the act of flipping channels is too ingrained to disappear just because the technology makes it redundant.

"Constantly having to pick what to watch next was daunting not only because it interrupted the usual flow of TV-time activities in the house or required interacting with unfamiliar interfaces but also because of the cognitive load involved in considering all of the numerous content alternatives," said the researchers.

The researchers were working with a small sample, but noted that the families with children found it particularly hard to manage TV watching without having a programme scheduler in charge.

The results have been spliced together into a video, but it's worth reading the blog covering the experiment too:

An Experiment In Cord Cutting from Hill Holliday on Vimeo.

Meanwhile in the UK, some people are already growing up without ever seeing multiple channels. TiVo arrived in the UK in 2000, so some 15-year-olds have never known TV without instant choice.

Despite ten years of innovation and development there's still not a better Personal Video Recorder than TiVo, which is now returning embedded in Virgin set-top boxes as those with aging TiVo boxes were reminded earlier this week.

Virgin's box will show broadcast TV as well as recording it: today most TiVo users eschew live television, but the inability to understand the attraction of channel surfing was almost certainly what caused it (and its contemporaries) to fail when launched on this side of the pond, and to struggle so much in America.

Picking every programme is not what most people want, and some sort of hybrid is necessary, though that doesn't mean broadcast. Tiscali's TV service did bundle programmes together for viewers, presenting an hour of children's viewing with suggestions that the little darling be tucked up in bed at the end, an idea which could surely be expanded: a night of lads' TV perhaps, or Pretty Woman bracketed with an episode of Friends or two?

But it does appear that despite the industry having spent decades creating technologies to enable complete freedom of choice for the viewers, those viewers have decided they'd like someone else to make that decision for them. ®

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