Internet streaming and DVD box sets have irreparably changed the way people consume television shows. Instead of waiting a week for the next episode of a show – especially shows like “Dexter” and “Breaking Bad” that specialize in tantalizing cliffhanger story arcs – many viewers prefer to watch their favorite series in marathon or “binge” formats.
MyRecordJournal.com of central Connecticut asked Time Magazine’s television critic James Poniewozik about this phenomenon. “This trend of people marathon-watching television is a change,” he said. “It’s a new thing people in the industry need to see that it’s happening and not fight it, but adapt to it,” says Poniewozik.
It may not be dire for networks to cater to this trend, as viewers still love anticipating and watching season premieres in real time. But ignoring this movement will most certainly mean networks are missing out on gaining another segment of viewers.
Fox has noticed this trend and prepared its programming accordingly. Fox will release a 10-episode season of the returning “Arrested Development” in full on Netflix, instead of airing the fourth season week-to-week.
“This is the way television is moving,” said Richard Hanley, associate professor of journalism and graduate journalism director at Quinnipiac University. “Many shows like ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Mad Men’ are a throwback to 19th century novelistic works such as Charles Dickens’, where chapters were released into magazines. Some people would read each chapter per issue, but many people would wait until they had the opportunity to read a lot at once.”
Catering to binge viewing can benefit networks in a variety of ways. One of the most important: Viewers are much more interested in a season premiere if they are already invested in the series. For viewers who haven’t seen a specific show, streaming previous seasons or watching them in gross on DVD is a way to catch up on the series. And it’s a way for the networks to get more eyes on their prime-time programming, resulting in the potential for more advertising revenue.
Networks would be amiss to ignore viewing trends. The Internet has changed the way people consume news and has significantly altered the newspaper industry. Unless TV networks want to be the next victims of the convenience that the Web provides to consumers, they must start delivering their product in a way viewers actually want to pay for it.
If you are new to binge viewing, here’s a list of ten series that’s sure to get you started!