The False Promise of “TV Everywhere”

“The Americans”

BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield recently got some publicity for documenting what many of us already know: accessing film and television content on an on-demand basis is largely a mess, even for paying cable subscribers. Greenfield blogged about his travails trying to binge-watch the first two seasons of the TV series “The Americans” via various means including Amazon Prime, the FXNow site, video on demand, and various set top and tablet devices. He was repeatedly thwarted either by restricted availability or un-skippable advertisements; at one point all of the episodes of the show’s second season suddenly became unavailable, and he was forced to purchase the last two episodes.

Somewhat ironically, Greenfield’s blog post is available only to subscribers, but Forbes has recapped it here. Public radio station KCRW also included an interview segment with Greenfield in its latest episode of its excellent podcast covering the entertainment industry, The Business.

There is way too much video out there for anyone to watch, all provided through a multitude of methods that are, in the grand scheme of things, much less difficult than say hunting down your own food. Complaining about the accessibility of a TV show seems somewhat petulant, but from a business standpoint, from the perspective of evaluating the efficiency of the market and the soundness of the customer experience, it really is remarkable how bad it all is. For myself, I only recently started watching “The Americans” after I realized it was available on Amazon Prime’s streaming video service; which as a Prime subscriber I’ve had access to since day one but never really bothered to look into. Keeping track of what can be watched from where and via which methods is difficult if not impossible, but it’s the burden that’s been placed on us by media companies who simply can’t get their act together. As Greenfield says in his interview, the few outlets that succeed, like Netflix, do so because they base their decisions on users, whereas most players in this field base their decisions around their own interests.

As a side note, I’m nearly finished with the first season of “The Americans,” and it’s a very, very good television show, far better than I expected that it could be. I’d say it’s pretty much worth the trouble I went through to hunt it down.