It’s not even a draft really, it’s just thinking out loud and writing it down. As a finished product I’d either title it “Google Might Be Smart for Losing a Lot of Money on YouTubeTV” or “Why Google and Facebook should scare the fucking shit out of the TV networks.”

Right now Apple & Amazon merely scare the shit out of me. That has more to do with the size of their data troves and the assumption that they can’t yet just buy the rest of the data about me from Google and Facebook.

I got a few e-mails asking why YouTubeTV (or any of the streaming OTT services) would bother with a business model that will never be profitable?

When it comes to AT&T, Dish and Sony I’m not sure what the thinking is. That’s because I’m dinging them (maybe unfairly) for not being anywhere near on the same level as the FAANG companies when it comes to data science and hiring lots of behavioral psychologists to figure out the very best ways to manipulate you into using their services more so they can make more money on you. They also don’t have the huge user data trove Facebook and Google have.

Google being willing to lose a lot of money on YouTubeTV for years makes sense to me if I think of it as a research & development expense that allows them to figure out how to aggregate viewers at scale. I expect them to start experimenting by trying to fiddle around with the habits of the YouTubeTV users.

The habit-fiddling potential scares the fucking shit out of me

The other day I was talking about my fear of Facebook with a friend and she basically said “You’re freaked out over nothing. Only the stupid people are susceptible to Facebook’s charms.”

I had kinda just freaked out about nothing over something else so I spent some time pondering if this is one of those times. I don’t think it is. It’s not only the stupid people who are susceptible.

It’s all of us.

People don’t think much about habits; that’s the point! 

We form habits precisely to free up our brains from having to think about that stuff.  Habits run on autopilot. In the discussions on habit manipulation I think the autopilot aspect is very significant and often overlooked.

In fairness to my friend, I am freaked out. But I don’t think it’s over nothing. I’m freaked out by the research from Kahneman et al.

That stuff really got me thinking about my own habits. Fortunately, like most people I have a lot of habits (not all of them good) so there was fertile ground for experimenting with seeing if I could to defeat the autopilot system a little bit and get clearer idea of how that stuff works with me.

The good news is that I was capable of defeating the autopilot occasionally, particularly around food, though I’m not getting into that here. The bad news is that only made me more fearful.


The Disruption That’s Not Just a Buzzword

I make a pot of coffee at home nearly every morning and that habit is so much on autopilot that I’d never have thought about it at all except that by running the routine daily for years I discovered something: when my autopilot habit gets disrupted I DO NOT NOTICE THE DISRUPTION in real time.

I only notice it as a function of the results. Those being the maybe 5-10 times a year I wind up with a pot of coffee that never brewed because I didn’t put any water in or a pot of hot water because I didn’t put any coffee in.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I’m also sure I’m not alone in having some kind of “Phone, keys, wallet, sunglasses” routine before leaving the house. And a handful of times a year, that autopilot routine gets disrupted — I OBVIOUSLY DO NOT NOTICE — and I wind up somewhere muttering to myself about being a dumbass for forgetting my wallet.

The Question That Scares Me

If I don’t notice my habits being disrupted when I am disrupting them myself or it’s just the typically calm (non-digital) external environment while being home alone causing the disruptions, what chance do I have against a Facebook & Google who will seize every opportunity to take advantage of that?

Why This Should Freak the TV Networks Out

The value of TV networks has always been the ability to aggregate audiences at scale. It’s still true. On the video side broadcast networks are still much better at delivering audiences at scale than anyone. For big events like the college football playoffs/championships cable is no slouch.

I’m frightened about the digital companies but I think the broadcast & cable nets will be better at delivering scale than anyone else for years to come. Longer than many people think.

But I also have the idea that the TV networks are way, way, way behind in the data science and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re not spending anything/much on the behavioral psychology of manipulation. And, even if they are on equal footing with data science and behavior manipulation, they have a teeny tiny data trove compared to Facebook and Google.

I don’t see Google losing hundreds of millions of dollars for a while as lighting money on fire. I see it as potentially a pretty price efficient way for Google to figure out how to aggregate audiences at scale…assuming they actually figure that out. That’s worth investing hundreds of millions on. It might be years but I do assume Google will figure it out.

The good news for the TV Networks is it probably will be years. The bad news for the rest of us is they are already manipulating our habits.

We already don’t notice.

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