I am a binge-watcher and I am not alone. One day recently, hard at work on a crafting project, I noticed that over 4 hours had passed. I had steadily been enjoying the background entertainment of one of my go-to binging while working shows (you know, the shows you have seen 4 times through and can recite every line of). I realized that I had been completely unaware of the theme song or credits ever playing and that’s when I realized that they hadn’t played at all. In fact, Netflix has changed it’s playback model (at least through my Ps3) to play each episode back to back, conveniently starting each episode after the openings and recaps, so my 22 minute episode, 9 season TV series was essentially becoming one epic movie. It was at this point that I realized binge-watching has become a completely acceptable way to consume TV.
I started looking at all the other features out there facilitating us binge-watchers. Hulu has a new “obsession” playback feature, and my YouTube Playstation app continually plays videos in a playlist. Even when Netflix pauses occasionally to prompt whether you would like to continue watching, it places the prompt several minutes into an episode, rather than a convenient place to stop watching. Netflix seems to be especially capitalizing on this new viewing style as it releases full seasons and has even gone so far as to make the browsing category “binge worthy TV shows”.
My binge media-consumption comes in lots of forms, I think part of it is just the way our culture is changing in terms of media consumption, and I’m not sure that’s necessarily a bad thing. At my past job, I binged on podcasts, but I bet there are people who spend a huge amount of their day binging on media on tumblr or facebook, and I’ve certainly had days where I have “binged” on candy crush. Is it really at all surprising that we consume our television entertainment in the same way? I realize that TV is a much bigger time commitment usually than other media consumption, but I have yet to come across a study that says people are on a whole watching more TV programming than before, just that the style in which we consume it has changed.
A Huffington post article I read a while ago stated that binge watching requires a person to be able to sit down and watch a program for a long period of time, and thus binge watchers were most likely to be adolescents or younger adults with fewer life commitments. Not only do I think it’s a little bit absurd to think that younger people have more time to sit in front of a TV, as most young people I know are insanely busy, however, they are also multi-tasking pros. I have a feeling that this is much more likely to have an impact on the demographic of binge-watchers. Netflix is definitely one of the top places people do their binge watching. I know a large number of people my age who opt not to have any cable TV service and instead simply pay for a Netflix and/or Hulu account. I know that there have been big changes happening in the way cable companies “bundle” channels in response to these new streaming options and people’s preference in how they view and pay for their TV. The younger demographic I would imagine is much more likely to already own a gaming system, making it very cost efficient to simply stream your online viewing to your television.
Additionally, I think the younger generations are generally better at (or at least do more) multitasking. I know that I am frequently working on multiple things while I binge watch TV, and at least among my group of friends, I am not alone. People are binge watching on smartphones, tablets, and laptops. To me, this indicates that there is very likely some multi-tasking happening during these marathon TV sessions.
This new style of media consumption also has implications to how companies advertise. If there is indeed a shift in younger audiences to not watch broadcast television, there are lots of companies targeting that market that now need to advertise in different ways. I find YouTube particularly interesting as a model for advertising. So many YouTube personalities and channels have an audience of millions, many of which are young. Plus, YouTube has the unique setup in that they are completely self-selected groups, so advertisers can target specific channels to reach out to endorse their products directly to an enormous group of target audience. Obviously this is very similar to what google already does with all of its targeted advertising, but I feel like much of that feels a little sneaky and very much in the background. YouTube advertising at least feels much more real, direct, and somewhat shameless (in the best way...why lie about advertising?). Yes, YouTube is a different thing entirely than Netflix and Hulu versus
TV broadcasting, but it’s interesting to watch advertising changing to adapt to the new media habits of their consumers. It makes no sense for companies marketing products for younger consumers to advertise on TV if no one is watching there.
There are a lot of pop culture articles out there about how binge watching is linked to depression, but I have not found anything that actually substantiates that claim. If binge-watching culture interests you, I’ve added a few links below to some good articles I found. And if you have any thoughts on binge-watching, I’d love to hear them!