Binge Watching: The New Normal

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I can see it so clearly. Sitting in my basement on that bright Saturday afternoon watching episode on top of episode of Pokemon with my brother (our weekly ritual). That was back in the early 2000’s, before iPhones, tablets, and most social media even existed. It’s pretty hard to believe that we lived without all of these luxuries just 10 years ago. Unbeknownst to me, I was participating in an act that had literally not even been given a term yet.

“Binge Watching” can be described as watching 2-6 episodes of a particular TV show in one sitting. Of course, it’s not uncommon for many viewers to exceed this limit and consume full seasons of TV shows in just one sitting.


 

So why do we Binge-Watch?

Grant McCracken, a cultural anthropologist studied the incentives rooted in the particular phenomenon and concluded that it stemmed from a perfect storm of 3 key factors.

  1. Better TV
  2. Current economic climate
  3. Digital explosion

When Grant studied the notion of better TV, he was mostly referring to network dramas. This is why all of your friends are constantly blabbering about 1 of 3 shows that they inhaled the night before (Breaking Bad is among the top most talked about shows on social media)


 

How is Binge Watching Changing the TV industry?

“TV viewers are no longer zoning out as a way to forget about their day, they are tuning in” – Grant McCracken

Its more than natural for people to become incredibly involved in a TV series. It has to do with “cognitive empathy” , a term that examines how humans can adopt other’s psychological perspective, a phenomena that is extremely effective in TV drama’s.

While TV viewers are consuming mass amounts of TV to experience a gratifying sense of ethos, they also tune in as an escape. According to recent studies, 76% of online streamer’s claimed that binge watching offers a “welcome refuge” from their busy lives. A whopping 79% of online streamers reported that “Binge watching makes TV more enjoyable”

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How has binge watching become the ‘new normal’?

Recently, there has been an increased trend in the social realm of people ditching their cable boxes and switching to the web. Some of your favorite shows can be found on cable TV (excluding HBO). Just a short list of series that have been at the top of the list of shows to binge include;  Mad Men, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, and Sons of Anarchy. These shows, like most others are networks dramas that you pay for with your cable bill. You may find it surprising that there are a plethora of online streaming websites and platforms (including; Netflix, HuluPlus, Amazon Video, and Clicker) that have previous seasons of these shows on queue, ready to watch. Whats most surprising is that these streaming platforms  have these shows available for a lower price than paying for cable.


 

Netflix’s role

Unsurprisingly, Netflix noticed this recent trend in viewers consuming mass amounts of TV at once and utilized it to their advantage. In mid-August of 2012 Netflix officially introduced a brand new feature called “post-play”. Once a show ends, the post-play feature allows the viewer to minimize the credits and automatically begin the next episode.

here is the new feature demonstrated with the show ‘Lost’

The post-play feature, along with ‘spoiler foiler’ (another Netflix special feature) have been noticeably successful within the binge watching community. Below you can find a podcast testimonial outlining these new features and their benefits.

 

Once again, this past Valentines day, Netflix made TV history when they released the second season of ‘House of Cards’ (one of the most anticipated releases of the year) all at once. After its release, Netflix subscribers were able to watch every episode at their discretion.

While this phenomenon is fairly recent, I don’t see it going away any time soon. TV will soon be catered toward the binge-viewer, giving more power to web-based streaming platforms such as Netflix and HuluPlus. Some say its ruining TV, some say its improving TV, though I don’t share either of those opinions. I’d rather everyone quit talking, fire up their laptops, and binge away.


Also, if you’re having trouble deciding on a show to start, consider this list:

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