When Netflix introduced its streaming platform, things began to change. No longer did viewers need to wait for cable marathons or DVD boxsets to watch copious amounts of TV all at once. Netflix was making entire seasons, and sometimes entire series, available instantly. Even more revolutionary, their original series followed suit, with Netflix posting all 13 episodes of House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, and others in one fell swoop.
This also created a new term for an old idea: binge-watching. According to a recent story by THR, that’s defined as watching 3 or more hours of a show in one sitting. And while for a long time now this has been heralded as the new paradigm for TV viewing (with even NBC getting into the game, as it will be releasing all 13 new episodes of its David Duchovny series Aquarius at once), there’s a new blacklash brewing against the idea of binge-watching — at least, as far as making new content available in one package.
Bizarrely, Netflix is leading the charge. Its new series Between is being released one week at a time, because it’s a Canadian co-production (and the deal apparently stipulated that new episodes air in Canada first). The THR story also brings up the fact that the data-obsessed Netflix will likely start experimenting with a variety of different of timing models; maybe some series will release one episode a day, or multiple episodes together once a week, or even the more traditional weekly output.
One of the reasons for this is that a lot of Netflix series seem to suffer from the purging after the bingeing. They drop out of the national conversation after about a week instead of being water cooler fodder for 12 or 13 weeks, because individual viewing schedules differ so much.
Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan told THR that,
I miss having people on the same page. I do miss being able to go online and have the conversation the day after. But it’s kind of a waste of time to lament that because that’s not the way our show comes.
It’s no surprise that Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner also feels the same, saying that if he ever created a Netflix series, he would want episodes released over time, “so at least there was just some shared experience. I love the waiting [and] marination.”
Binge-watching has contributed to the resurgence of some series, though, whose first or second season viewing numbers weren’t great, but then gained a big following over time thanks to being featured on Netflix. That, apparently, is what NBC is trying to hedge by putting all of Aquarius’ episodes up at once, so that people can have an immersive experience. As Kohan added,
When people watch our show, they immerse themselves in it, they bathe in it, they live with these characters for hours and hours at a time — and they have a different experience because of the way they watch it, because of the binge.
Binge-watching isn’t necessarily a bad thing unto itself, it just maybe shouldn’t be applied to every kind of show. Some series may not be able to afford, in the harsh world of broadcast TV, to get a season or two to make a statement to viewers or critics. It needs to create an audience now. On the other hand, zeitgeist series like Orange Is the New Black get consumed so quickly that its nuances are missed, and critics and commenters struggle to know how to walk the line between being spoilery, and missing the expiration date on interest.
So where do you fall, readers? Are you a binger, and do you do so just to catch up with shows, or do you prefer all of your TV served in large portions? Have you experienced any downsides to bingeing your favorite shows, or is it the only way forward? Also, will no one think of the poor NBC affiliates who have to air Aquarius week after week when everyone has already watched it?