Binge Watchers Rejoice! Netflix Says Keep Watching, You’re Doing Things Just Right

For those of us who like to spend our days and nights devouring television episodes via Netflix, the day has come for our behavior to be accepted. The streaming giant completed a survey through Harris Interactive that shows that binge watching is not only normal, it makes television that much better. From Cinema Blend:

• Binge watching isn’t an emerging trend or behavior: it’s mainstream and the new normal. 61% binge watch regularly. (2-3 episodes of a single TV series in one setting).

• 73% viewed binge watching as positive.

• Dispelling conventional wisdom–binge watching is actually moderate behavior (avg of 2.3 episodes/sitting). And it’s consistent across demographics—though 18-34 binge watches slightly more.

• Viewers see binge watching as engaging and immersive, and TV improving in quality–2/3 say there is simply too much good TV to watch. Quite the evolution from a few decades ago when the then FCC Chairman called TV “A vast wasteland”.

• 76% of TV streamers said watching several episodes at a time as a welcome refuge from the busy world we live in.

• In a highly fragmented 140 character 24/7 world, viewers are seeking out longer form, complex storytelling.

• The experience is better: 79% say binge watching makes the actual show better. •

None of this comes as much of a shock considering the current on demand lifestyles we tend to gravitate towards. DVRs, streaming music and a 24/7 news cycle shows that people want to take in content suited to their own pace. Also aiding binge behavior is the improvement in quality of television programming over the past decade. From CNN:

The Harris survey was conducted online among 3,078 adults in the U.S. in late November. About half of the sample identified as streaming television viewers. Along with the survey, Netflix said that it enlisted Grant McCracken, a cultural anthropologist and author, to observe how television viewers in the U.S. and Canada now interact with the medium.

“Binge watching is not reckless or indulgent,” McCracken said in an email. “It’s a smart and an even contemplative way to watch certain kinds of TV. Good TV especially.”

I’m a habitual binge watcher myself, having personally found myself behind on the wave of a lot of great television and wanting to catch up. But at the same time, I did it a lot before Netflix as well through the magic of DVDs.

Lost is a show that sold me via binge watching the first season on DVD and it lacked a lot of the frustration I would experience in the later seasons. Instead of having to wait week to week to see if creative would serve up genius or crap, I could watch a complete stream and see the shows ups and downs all at once. Mad Men, Breaking Bad and plenty of other shows have followed suit. It’s also a great way to discover new shows like Scandal and Netflix’s own House of Cards.

Not everyone agrees with Netflix’s view on the subject of course, most prominently Amazon and their streaming service. From Cinema Blend:

THR says Price expressed concern about people being able to talk with one another about the show if they released all of the episodes at once, as it means people would be at different points in the season at different times.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen four episodes and I’ve seen six … I can’t really say anything except ‘I like the show.’ It’s a little bit of a problem. And it kind of takes away one of the fun things about a TV show, which is saying, ‘Hey did you see that?’ and ‘What do you think is going to happen with blah blah blah?”

He elaborates with the argument that social media discussion centered on binge-watched shows drops more drastically over time by comparison to shows that air week to week. So their choice to air a release episodes together and then go week-to-week after that was meeting somewhere in the middle and they’re seeing how it goes.

It’s something we’ve covered in the past and a valid point. But at the same time, high ratings for weekly airings of a show like Breaking Bad would lend itself to the successes of binge viewing. People are watching and they’re expanding what they watch through the use of streaming like Netflix and Amazon.

And even if Amazon disagrees on binge watching, the ability to choose is still available with their foray into original programming. Even if all the episodes aren’t released at once, users still have the chance to wait and watch at their own pace.

What do you think? Is binge watching harmful or is the study correct in the assumption that it improves television?

(Lead image via gettyimages)