The concept of binge-watching television shows is something that is unique to the 21st century. Whether the show of choice is “The Office,” “Breaking Bad” or “Grey’s Anatomy,” nearly everyone has sat down and watched multiple episodes (sometimes even seasons) of a show at some point in their life.
This phenomenon might seem bizarre to those who grew up in the era of gathering around the television set every week to tune into their favorite programs. The question remains: is binge-watching the new normal? Or is it just a fad that will soon dissipate?
In 2014, Netflix conducted a survey showing that 73 percent of its viewers define binge-watching as “watching between 2-6 episodes of the same TV show in one sitting.” The term “binge-watching” can be traced back to the late ‘90s, and became more prevalent when Netflix began its internet streaming services in 2007 with their infamous subscription cost of “just eight bucks a month.” In recent years, other streaming services have jumped on the streaming bandwagon, including Hulu and Amazon Prime.
The allure of binge viewing is easy to understand. The week-long wait between episodes is reduced to seconds, and the ability to watch multiple episodes at a time comes with the agency to choose how much content to consume at once. Being able to watch more than one episode in a sitting is comparable to reading multiple chapters of a book at once. However, this is a more advanced form of media consumption.
Binge-watching culture has given rise to new shows that forego traditional weekly release and are instead released annually, one season at a time. Netflix originals such as “House of Cards,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Orange is the New Black” are arguably becoming more popular than shows that follow a more typical release schedule. And with reboots of classic favorites like “Fuller House,” the streaming audience continues to grow among all ages.
TV critics debate whether or not the serialized television experience is better because there is a waiting period between installments, for one to savor the previous episode and look forward to the next. Vince Gilligan (the creator of “Breaking Bad”) believes that viewers who polish off multiple seasons in short spans of time are better off because crucial plot points remain fresh in their memory. It makes sense: similar to the feeling of not being able to put down a book due to the intensity of the plot, viewers are finding it hard to stop at just one episode of “Game of Thrones” or “Mad Men.”
Binge-watching is especially appealing in our on-the-go society. It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and while the future of network television remains unclear, Netflix and other streaming services are becoming the standard for TV consumption.
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