COMMENT | Is Binge Watching The Future Of TV?
I’ve recently found myself slipping into an alarming condition – binge watching. I know, I know, it’s hardly life threatening in terms of health…but if left unchecked, could be relationship threatening!
Ok, let’s start at the beginning – what is binge watching? According to the Oxford Dictionary, it’s a verb (that’s a “doing” word – all that education wasn’t wasted) and originated back in the early 1990s with terms like binge drinking, binge eating, etc. Binge seems to be something we add to words to make them sound bad, or as a warning.
So, back to binge watching, where we define the phrase as watching multiple episodes of a programme/series in one sitting. Netflix did a quick survey back in 2014 and found that 73% of its viewers defined it as watching at least 2-3 episodes in a single sitting, typically of the same series – and this is my definition too.
It’s only right that Netflix is mentioned as it feels like one of the main “suppliers” to binge watchers worldwide – think about it and pre-streaming, the only way to binge watch was to buy the physical DVD or (even further back) video.
Now, however, things have changed substantially and we have Now TV, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and lots more streaming services coming online that supply us with what we want, when we want it – entire series of programmes in a single sitting, immediately.
So what’s the appeal? Why do we do it? How did we lose that glorious anticipation we felt when we were so into a new series, we couldn’t wait for the next episode – but did?
Let’s be honest, there are some series so popular that they aren’t released as a series in totality – whether this is due to contractual restrictions or simply to keep you coming back next week, it doesn’t matter. We can still have access to the entire back catalogue and enjoy classic moments in between new episodes – yes “Game of Thrones”, I’m looking at you.
So, while I love the concept and appeal of fresh episodes each week – think “The Night Manager” – I also love the feeling of making a new discovery or reacting to a recommendation and watching as many episodes as possible to keep that theme or storyline going.
As an example, I missed ‘Looking” when it first came out but based on friends recommendations and the fact that Murray Bartlett (Dom) is a cutie-pie with a nice bum, I bought the 2 series available via iTunes and binge watched them. I couldn’t stop – simply because I’d found characters that I liked (mostly) and storylines that interested me and I now owned both series so had access to watch as much or as little as I wanted. My addictive personality meant that 2 series lasted about a day and a half, but what a glorious day and a half!
I’ve found myself doing it with other programmes too – am part way through season 2 of “How To Get Away With Murder” (OMG!) and me and my partner are watching a couple of episodes per evening rather than watch TV. This is after watching season 1 via Netflix in a couple of sittings. This is where binge watching comes into its own – it you haven’t watched this programme, its a complex murder mystery played out over a season, with multiple characters and storylines interweaving and, if I’m honest, I would have lost the plot if I’d had to wait too long between single episodes. But by binge watching, I was able to keep on track and really enjoy the series.
I can’t help but feel that our viewing habits are changing enormously and this has to have an impact of the future of TV as we know it. On demand and catch-up play such a huge part in my current viewing habits – and it would seem, in the lives of my friends (on and off line).
I recently asked a simple question across my social media platforms and got the same answer. The question? Do you binge watch? The answer – a resounding yes, but for a variety of reasons. These ranged from sheer boredom to catching up on a series you’ve missed, or re-watching an old series you love.
My reasons for doing it? All of the above! I work from home mainly and as this can be quite lonely and quiet at times, like to have some noise on – I dislike radio, and as a control freak (of sorts) don’t like someone else choosing my music or chatter, so I like being able to put something on in the background and dip in and out between emails, spreadsheets and WebEx’s.
I recently watched 8 series/seasons of The Big Bang Theory while involved in a soul-destroying admin task…some may say watching a single episode is soul-destroying but I quite liked the canned laughter and jokes.
So, the upshot is that I feel binge watching is becoming the norm and a good way to play catch-up for series you may have missed or been recommended by friends/family. As more of us change our lifestyles and work patterns, the traditionally way to view programmes has to change too and, so far, its not doing too bad a job.
Got to go now, there’s 7 seasons of Buffy on Netflix and they ain’t gonna watch themselves…
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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.