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There’s a segment in a 2003 episode of radio series This American Life from 2003, in which a man named Dan Fitzsimons talks about a cable television channel he tried to launch in the ’90s. It was the “Puppy Channel”. A 24/7 broadcast of nothing but puppies.
At the time, no cable provider liked the idea enough to make it happen, but I think about the story a lot. I think about it on days like today, on which Twitch has just introduced a new “Animals, Aquariums, and Zoos” category to the livestreaming platform.
The new category was introduced as part of Twitch’s Animal Week, and their blog post on the topic highlights some streams where you can interact with the animals live. There’s a duck stream where you can spend Bits (Twitch’s microcurrency) to feed them, and a turtle stream where you can change the lighting and music.
Twitch also say that they’re “working with zoos, aquariums, and animal non-profits” on ways to support animal conservation and environmental restoration projects, as well as to “elevate the importance of environmental and conservation issues facing these critters.”
At the time of writing the Animals category has about 6.5k viewers spread across 51 livestreams, making it more popular with viewers than Far Cry 6. On this basis alone, I deem it relevant to us as a PC games website.
There is, of course, at least one puppy channel.
One of the details from the This American Life story that stuck with me was the description of the proposed Puppy Channel as a “parking place on television”. A channel to point your television at when there’s nothing else on that you want to commit to, one which would be gently entertaining and offer “something that didn’t bother you.”
I spend a lot of my time now on Twitch, my television or spare computer monitor parked on something that doesn’t bother me. Dan Fitzsimons was ahead of his time.