TV: The rise of ‘binge viewing’
Tech-savvy young people have come up with a whole new way to watch TV, said John Jurgensen in The Wall Street Journal. The “binge viewer” compulsively views whole seasons of drama series in marathon sessions lasting a day or more, using new technologies like on-demand TV, digital video recorders, and streaming websites. Netflix says TV shows now account for 60 percent of its streaming volume, and has even introduced a feature that automatically plays the next episode of a series. TV networks aren’t happy, because binge viewers bypass advertising vital to their business, but the increasingly popular practice is “changing the economics of the industry.” Producers now create “highly serialized shows,” hoping to make streaming deals that invite bingers to devour them in one sitting. Immersing yourself in a well-told TV drama, psychologists say, produces “something akin to a trance”—making the characters, plot, and emotions they evoke seem more real.
Binge viewing may be popular, said Jim Pagels in Slate.com, “but it Binge viewing may be popular, said Jim Pagels in Slate.com, “but it destroys much of what is best about TV.” Series like AMC’s Breaking Bad are intended to be watched over periods of weeks, not hours—and gorging on them denies you a chance to develop a relationship with their characters, or to relish each episode as a story in itself. There’s nothing quite like the delicious suspense of a cliff-hanger—but “that pleasure evaporates when you simply click ‘play’ on the next episode.” To me, it’s disrespectful to watch the entirety of a nuanced, artful drama in “a few couch-buried sittings,” said Richard Lawson in TheAtlantic.com. “Something like Mad Men, which unfolds with elegant precision and demands a little thinking time, is probably best savored slowly.”
That’s silly, said James Poniewozik in Time.com. Is a great novel less wonderful if you read it in a long, “sustained trance,” or 20 pages at a time over the course of weeks? That’s purely a matter of personal preference; good storytelling “will take whatever viewing conditions you throw at it.” Besides, the era of everyone watching TV shows at the same time, the same way, is over, said Linda Holmes in NPR.org. Now you can watch your favorite series on “a big TV, or on a small TV, or on a tablet, or on a phone.” You can watch it on a train or bus, or in bed, in the afternoon, or at any time of day you like. How could that be bad?