Why are entertainment UIs so bad?

Here are some examples:

You’re watching a recorded tennis match. At the end of the first set, you hit “Pause” to get a snack. The progress indicator pops up and shows you that you’re about 50% done with the video. You now know it was a two set match, and thus who won the set and match. There’s no point in watching the rest.

With soccer matches, the progress bar will leak to you if the match went into overtime.

The last time I paid for a sports app (e.g. ESPN), and wanted to watch a recorded soccer match, the app conveniently shows how long the video is. If it’s roughly 90 minutes, you already know it didn’t go into over time. Get good enough at this and you can even tell if it went into a penalty shootout.

I even had one app show me the “Skip Credits” button in the final game of a tennis match.

You’re deep into a movie. The hero has caught the villain. The progress indicator shows you there are 30 minutes left in the movie. You now know the villain is going to somehow escape his current predicament.

You’re watching a TV show on Netflix. It informs you that the next episode is the last episode of the season. That’s a pretty significant spoiler.

Why should doing something as simple as pause, forward, rewind, or heck even looking at the video before opening it reveal so much?

For media files on your PC, file sizes contain similar spoilers. You watched one tennis match and it was 5 GB and two sets long. Now you can estimate how many sets a match is just by the file size. For those who download such files from torrent sites, you have to be careful not to glance at the file size from:

  • Whatever tracker you’re downloading from
  • In your torrent application
  • When you look at it on your disk

There is a solution to this: Ensure all files are transcoded to be roughly the same (large) size. (Small file sizes won’t work as the degradation in quality for long matches will be a spoiler).

On my local mplayer, I’ve configured it to turn the OSD off. I can always enable it with a keystroke if I need it.

In the old days, when I would shop around for a DVD player, I would always make sure I picked one that would not show a progress bar when rewinding or forwarding.

Why don’t streaming services and media applications provide a “No spoiler mode” where it doesn’t show me any progress indicators or video lengths?


Somehow this is not a problem when it comes to reading books. With physical books, you know roughly how many pages are left by looking at the thickness of the remaining pages in comparison to the whole book. It isn’t much of a spoiler because the pace of storytelling is dramatically different from one story to another. Knowing there are 50 pages left in a novel could mean there’s a lot more content coming, or it could be a very slow ending. With movies, the pace tends to be fairly consistent from one movie to another.