The really big question here is how TV viewing would change if you did move from the current model of TV as a largely undirected, passive experience, to one that required (/’allowed’) you to make choices. If you come home and turn on a random piece of generic light entertainment you’ll watch it, but you might never choose to watch it, much less search for it. So is that a bundling problem or a recommendation problem? Should we think of TV viewing hours as propped up by filler shows in the same way that CD albums were full of filler tracks, and that if we go to a fluid on-demand environment people might just stop watching that filler? Or would the right passive programming system - ‘Pandora for TV’ replace one passive experience with another, more tailored and targeted one, with the greater accessibility of long-tail content taking up the slack? Of course, a lot of TV channel branding and programming is about just this - in effect a lot of TV is ‘Pandora for TV’. Either way, this is really about unbundling shows from TV channels, not unbundling channels (or on-demand channel brands) from cable TV subscriptions. And (looking back to Netflix) how would that cascade back though the TV production system? How many fewer shows might be made? How would they be funded? And what would happen to the ‘golden age of TV’?
These are all good questions that likely point to the reason why television hasn’t been disrupted yet. In many ways, television (largely meaning cable television) stumbled into the perfect system to placate the bored/lazy/etc masses. And now that there’s actually great content on as well, it’s serving to stimulate the other side.
Netflix and the like are slowly changing the equation, but until you have a system that offers both better content and replicates the “turn on, tune out” mode, cable television is here to stay.
"Choice" is sometimes a curse disguising itself as a blessing.