Choice Paralysis in the Streaming Age

Anthony Eales
5 min readApr 25, 2023

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We are but a rabbit in a field of carrots.

The sheer amount of content that is out there to be consumed is having the opposite intended consequence on me, in that I am presented with so much of it that I inevitably cede back to my comforts on my iPad or Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone.

I am of course talking about all the streaming video services on offer in Australia.

I subscribe to the following at the moment:
-Netflix (because well duh? Every man and his dog has Netflix I’m led to believe)
-Disney+ (as you will read this is part of what prompted this article on choice paralysis in the streaming age)
-Apple TV+ (quality can sometimes make choice paralysis that bit easier)
-Paramount+ (gotta get my South Park fix)
-my parents’ Foxtel subscription via multi-screen in a separate household (I’m sure this breaks Foxtel’s terms of service but it’s great for all that HBO, live sports and Foxtel Originals)
-YouTube Premium (the answer to choice paralysis in my humble opinion. It’s the service I usually retreat to if I can’t decide on something to watch on the other streaming services. And that is because the recommendations engine and algorithms just seem to get me).
-Plex (I also run a personal Plex Media Server but even then with the world’s content at your fingertips I still retreat to YouTube and then once my options run out there back to my iPad or Pixel.)

My music streaming services include Spotify Premium and Apple Music and I use these two way more than any of my video streaming services as background atmospheric music and these can be quite handy to ease panic attacks, which I sometimes experience, though nothing to do with the choice paralysis funnily enough. I will put some music on my TV and read articles or use social media on my phone or tablet if I’m not in the mood for a TV show or movie and when YouTube fails to deliver for me.

57 Channel and Nothin’ On; I feel ya Bruce.

The funny thing about 57 Channels (And Nothin’ On) of Bruce Springsteen song fame is that there probably wasn’t the amount of quality of video content back then by way of movies and TV shows that we have today. But the quality isn’t really the problem in my eyes. There is just so much quality TV and many amazing movies out there. So why can’t one decide what to watch?

The initial pressing play on a TV show episode or movie is the point that I sometimes never get to in a given day. I really have to be in the mood to watch something. A watching mood if you will. And to escape wanting to read news or social media perusal can be a hard thing to break for me.

Funnily enough I could listen to podcasts (while I’m driving) at any time of the day. I just love listening to podcasts. There just always seems to be podcast episodes to listen to and coming down my RSS feeds. It’s similar with YouTube. On a good day in my recommendations homepage on my TV YouTube can be absolutely brilliant.

The Homework Problem

Part of my problem with working out what to watch on streaming video services is that when you start watching something you are kind of bound to finish it. Although I’m sure some people can abandon shows with no care in the world.

This problem is compounded by cinematic universes such as Marvel or Star Wars.

I am up to watching Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and I have done my homework up to this point in watching all the Disney+ shows as well as all the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And I’ve just started watching The Book of Boba Fett (I know I’m way behind but I do plan to catch up eventually.)

Maybe I don’t actually deep down enjoy this content anymore. I dunno. But when I’m watching it I am having fun I think. But it sometimes can feel like homework and you feel overwhelmed. You have to watch undesirable content just to get to the nugget that you have been longing to watch.

Cinemas As A Destination

My way around the choice paralysis problem with movies is going to the cinemas. There’s no distractions when you are there. And it can feel like you are part of something larger buying your ticket and contributing to the box office of whatever movie you are seeing in a given weekend or during the week. There’s arguments that you can’t pause the movie whenever you want. But I’d argue in a distraction-free darkened room with hopefully some other cinema-goers and a big screen and surround sound right with you the chances of you becoming engrossed in a movie are very high. There’s a reason I always come away from a movie planning my next cinema trip.

I realised this is kind of a forced way of addressing choice paralysis, by limiting your choices. But it seems to work for me.

Tracking What You Watch

I track what I watch with a variety of apps and websites:
-IMDb
-Trakt
-followmy.tv
-iCheckMovies
-TV Time
-Marathon
-Google Docs

And maybe this adds to my issues as everything is so regimented and in order. I can’t just watch something without tracking it. But I do get joy checking in after I’ve watched something.

Entertainment as a Spectator Sport

What I have begun to realise is that I enjoy reading about entertainment in the way of movie & TV news as well as the business aspect of it all more sometimes than I do in actually watching movies and TV shows.

Box office news is what I crave. TV ratings. Radio ratings. Media industry news. Newsletters about the entertainment industry.

Free To Air TV

I barely ever watch anything on Australian free to air TV. The only watching I seem to do is second screening the news or live sport. I just thought I’d add this as free to air TV for me is pretty much dead to me now a full attention giving medium.

First World Problems

I realise all of this essentially amounts to first world problems as the recent saying goes. But I just wanted to bring my thinking and feelings to light.

Is this an issue that you suffer from too? Maybe you love the overwhelming plethora of content coming down the firehose.

But for me it’s just gotten too much to keep up with. But maybe that’s a good thing as I will self select the most primo of content at the end of the day. Or maybe I’ll just be stuck doing the cinematic equivalent of homework.

Anthony Eales is a media, news & tech junkie from Australia. You can reach him on Twitter @ants000.

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