From Era of Plenty to Era of Overflow: What shall I watch?

Jonas De Meulenaere, Wendy Van den Broeck, Bram Lievens

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)

7 Citations (Scopus)


According John Ellis' (2000) typology of the television distribution system, we currently reside in the 'era of plenty', induced by the digitization process and expressed in the immense availability of content. From 2000 on, video content has become progressively available through a variety of channels, both legal and illegal, and in different forms (e.g. specialised niche content and user generated content online on top of an extensive amount of TV-channels with around the clock broadcasts). It can thus be argued that rather than an 'era of plenty', we are currently in an 'era of overflow'. Indeed, the digitization process has provided the viewer with more autonomy ('watch whatever I want, whenever I want'), but this also leads to more complex decision processes in selecting the content. Furthermore, the tendency to produce more content might lead to a choice for quantity over quality, making it difficult for viewers to find their preferred qualitative offer in an overflow of content.
This paper focuses on how viewers cope with this situation of infinite availability of content and investigates to what extent viewers apply an active search process towards video content. Relevant factors in this process are the role of gatekeepers (peers, but also broadcasters and professional recommendation initiatives) and the specific social context in which the video content is consumed.
For the theoretical part of this paper, we apply a domestication research approach as developed by Silverstone and Haddon (1996), focusing on the consumption process of TV-content. Also the work of Buonanno and Radice (2008) on the transition of television is valuable for our research perspective.
The empirical research consists of a series of seven focus group interviews with different user profiles (e.g. ordinary television viewers, active sharers, leaching downloaders). Three focus groups have already been conducted in February-March 2011; the remaining four are planned later this year (October-November) .
The results of the focus group interviews already conducted indicate that in general, the extent to which an active search process is applied correlates with the social context in which the content will be watched. In addition, actively searching for video content depends on the digital competences one has. Furthermore, the tendency is that the personal social network is preferred over professional recommendation systems such as IMDb, Jinni or Amazon.
With the upcoming focus group interviews, we aim to extend these initial results by targeting theoretically relevant groups (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication"What is Television? A conference exploring the past, present, and future of television"
PublisherUniversity of Oregon
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventUnknown -
Duration: 1 Jan 2012 → …


Period1/01/12 → …


  • video selection
  • digital video content


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