A Variety article on the perils of binge viewing for Netflix caught my eye very recently. You can see the link below, but basically their business model, might be hindering their profits, as too many of their viewers are binge watching their original programming all at once, and afterwards, not watching much else, which means Netflix, will then have to spend more money to create original programming then they might actually have.
Some may be surprised to find this out about me, but I'm actually not a big fan of binge watching TV series. Yes, to some extent, I and I think everyone participates in it in one way or another, with me, it's usually through DVDs nowadays, but most of the time, I'd rather not watch everything in one shot. Now, that's not to say there aren't benefits from screening shows this way, convenience for instance, but oftentimes, I need about a week break from a series, just to ponder and consider the show/episode. You can really go a little crazy watching whole seasons of a show at once. Some shows can make you stupid watching them all at once too, but-eh, going crazy can be just as worrisome. God help anyone who came into it blind, and decided to give "24" a try on DVD. But, apart of what's good about television at it's best, s the one week, or even longer waits that builds us up. The tension, the anticipation, the time to think and discuss, "Wow! I can't believe that happened!" and "Holy shit, what's gonna what's gonna happen next?!" and other such questions. I mean, you'll never see me devote an entire blogpost just to recap and give my thought on the latest "Breaking Bad" or "The Newsroom" episode or something like that, but the fact that so many other bloggers do, should tell you just how much enjoyment we get out of a delayed reaction/gratification. We enjoy the water cooler talks, why can't we admit that anymore?
Now does that mean I'm advocating that everyone should stop binge watching "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black", because Netflix's stock is falling because there's too many people binge watching these shows too quickly? Hell no! Screw them. They decided on entire seasons released immediately, no commercials, and a flat monthly rate, let them hang by their own rope for all I care. It was I, some may remember who told Netflix and Hulu that they should start their own TV channels as a way to help distribute their original content and promote their websites, and despite everything, I'm still convinced that streaming is not the future, and this is partly why. You need to generate revenue in order to produce and distribute more original product, as well as have more outlets to advertise your original product, and get more people to watch. They'll learn eventually, or they won't, but I just don't think binge watching is the most productive way to watch most series.
At least not at first. At least, not intentionally. You see, binge viewing, is hardly a new phenomenon, even in television, hell it predates DVDs even. TV networks, as they constantly struggle to find content to air 24 hours a day, occasionally air what used-to-be-called, marathons, of some of their more popular TV shows, or least popular in some instances, if they wanted to try to get a particularly show to succeed. Actually they still air marathons, and still call them that; I don't know why I said "use to"..., but it's the same thing. Sometimes it helps a TV show, "Scrubs" benefited greatly from a mini-marathon once, other-times, they're just good content fillers, and people watch them. I watch them. I'm partial to "Top Chef" and "Project Runway" marathons for instance, or other more classic show marathons that Nick at Nite and TV Land would used to air, usually on weekdays or weekends. ("Get Smart" marathons were a particular favorite of mine.) They're definitely helpful for catching up on a missed episode or two or some shows, however, they're most beneficial for other reasons. One's an obvious reason, they're good time-wasters. It's not just for the channel to do that, they're good for us. Something good on, but not until later, kill some time with a few Seinfeld reruns. It's always nice to know that there's something you know, is good on TV, that you can just put on and not have to think or worry about it. Which brings me to the other best circumstance to binge watch a show, because you've already seen it!
Exploring new shows, can be fun, but we watch shows over and over again, because we've already seen them and we know they're good. They're familiar to us; we don't have to think too much. Background music if you will. Nobody puts on background music that they've never heard before right, or worst yet, music they don't like, right? Same with TV shows. Now, the other side of that, which is where I most often come in, not always, some things are just brainlessly, enjoyable eye candy and frankly we need some of that too, but what I like about marathons of stuff I've already seen, is now I can analyze the show, and study it more thoroughly. When you know what's gonna happen, you can now catch some of the technical details and jokes & things that you might've missed before. This is particularly useful for the best of shows, like "Arrested Development" which includes lots of layering in their show and oftentimes the show gets even funnier on later viewings. I find this to be most impressive with the very best reality shows, believe it or not, where we do catch great editing and foreshadowings of what's coming ahead or sometimes, they allow us to be tricked and fooled completely by misdirection, and consider how they're creating this tension and drama, almost all of this air. When it's done well, on binge viewings, you can realize the artistry involved, even in reality shows.
That's when binge viewing can be used to it's fullest effect. Now, of course there's major exceptions to this, as there are all standards, and personal preferences. For me, it took one episode of "Girls", and I was immediately watching all the DVDs that second, twice (Okay, four time each, not counting commentaries) but generally, I find it best to pace oneself, even if you have to bingewatch, set a limit, like one DVD/day or X amount of episodes to stream, before switching to something else for a little while, and stick with it. Even if it ends on the kind of cliffhanger where the urge to find out what happens next is so strong, that it's practically a reflex to watch the next one, don't. Not right away at least. If everyone else can wait a week denying gratification, then so can you, and besides that, if it really is that good, then no matter how long it takes, it'll be worth the wait.