Binge viewing is not a sudden craze introduced by Netflix downloads. It’s been the delight of viewing consumers for decades to customize their libraries of video entertainment (with the use of DVR and VHS) to “binge” on their favorite TV programs – remember 24? Lost? Heroes? But lately there’s been an implication that viewing has reached a turning point with Netflix’ series House of Cards, and not just because it’s been marketed as a TV series distributed outside of a conventional TV network.
The hue and cry over House of Cards has been in its availability. It was released as a singularity, not as a traditional series, spaced out over time. Television theorists have busied themselves by speculating over the wisdom of such a strategy; without sustained buzz of a program and the social chatter that comes from spacing out each episodically, the program will struggle to remain relevant with viewers because of the gap between “seasons”.
Perhaps it would help if you thought of the second season as a sequel rather than Season 2.
What Netflix has done is simply create another category of content.
What it’s not is a threat to conventional television. In fact, it’s more likely to be of benefit to the television universe.
It’s pointless to recite the litany of media choices at the disposal of humankind in today’s oversaturated, overstimulated world. Yet for all of those choices, television remains the primary medium of Americans by a wide margin. So considering the modern media universe, any behavior that will further habitualize television as their primary medium should be applauded.
The fact is that consumers binge watch because they’ve found content that resonates with them.
Whatever their psychological reason is for “binging” (it’s been compared to the “can’t eat just one” potato chip theory, dopamine levels and neurotransmitter chemistry, among other things), the important thing is that the viewer is watching television. Once their binge is over, they’re likely to seek out new content to take its place, and based upon the Top A 25-54 shows of ’12/’13 and other recent TV seasons, that’s likely to come from Broadcast television.
After a while, people tend to tire of consuming the same old diet no matter how much they love it. The great chefs – in this case, the broadcasters – are the ones that offer the most inventive, freshest, tastiest choices for their customers. And that’s usually Tonight’s Specials.
As they say, binge away, America. We’ll make more.