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How We Watch TV



This is an edition of The Wonder Reader, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a set of stories to spark your curiosity and fill you with delight. Sign up here to get it every Saturday morning.

In 2018, Daniel H. Pink wrote that he organizes his TV diet into “couch shows” and “phone shows.” Couch shows are streamed in a specified place, on a comparably large screen. “Phone shows” are the ones he watches “during the interstitial moments of my life—a long wait at an airport gate, a late-night Uber ride, and so on.” Pink argues that the shortening attention span of today’s consumers opens the door for a new form of entertainment that creators might want to capitalize on—in other words, why don’t more streaming services embrace the distinct category of the “phone show”?

If you’re someone who saves television for a night at home with a bowl of popcorn, you might find Pink’s argument blasphemous. Or you might be a phone-only viewer these days. As our lives change, so do the ways we consume entertainment. Wildly different viewing habits can exist even within the same household. Today’s reading list explores what each of us might really mean when we say, “I’m going to watch some TV.”

Our TV Habits

Why Is Everyone Watching TV With Subtitles On?

By Devin Gordon


It’s not just you.

The World Needs Netflix Minis

By Daniel H. Pink

To understand how viewing habits have changed, consider the difference between the couch show and the phone show.

The Hidden Cost of Cheap TVs

By Justin Pot

Screens have gotten inexpensive—and they’re watching you back.


Still Curious?

  • This is what Netflix thinks your family is: The streaming service’s restrictive new rules on password sharing among relatives reveal the industry’s pernicious bias, Cory Doctorow wrote in February.
  • When did TV watching peak? It’s probably later than you think, and long after the internet became widespread, Alexis Madrigal wrote in 2018.

Other Diversions


If you’d asked me what the ideal TV-watching experience was 10 years ago, I would’ve sung the praises of watching Gilmore Girls or The O.C. on my tiny, portable DVD player. Looking back, I wonder if that was my original “phone show” experience.

— Isabel

Source: The Atlantic


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