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How Has Binge-Watching Affected Your TV Viewing Habits? 20 S&A Readers Share Their Experiences (What About You?)

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by Tambay A. Obenson
March 26, 2014 12:06 PM
2 Comments
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The usage of the word "binge-watch" has apparently been around for over a decade, and has been popularized in more recent times with the advent of on-demand viewing and online streaming of content, thanks to providers like Netflix releasing episodes of its serial programming simultaneously.


And now that it's officially in the mainstream, as more and more of us gladly embrace the idea, how has binge-watching affected the way we all watch TV in 2014?

This is a question I asked S&A Facebook subscribers over the weekend, and below are some of the responses I received.

First, let me say that, as someone who hasn't been a regular TV watcher for years (I "cut the cord" as the saying goes, years ago), binge-watching is something I did before Netflix helped popularize the term. I'm one of those early adopters when it comes to technology, given that I've long been a gear-head/tech geek. So I don't necessarily consider myself an appropriate candidate for the above survey question (which is why, in part, I wanted to hear from others). It's become very much a part of how I consume content these days. The web has long been my window to the world of content produced for TV and film.

I believe disruption in the methods of distribution of content will only continue, and I envision a time in the not-so distant future, when we'll all be able to watch whatever it is we want to watch (brand new content, old content, content from other parts of the world, etc), whenever, and on whatever platform we choose. And we'll be able to do so à la carte, without paying unnecessary costs for packaged deals that we won't fully exploit, as we currently do with cable television, for example. 

So how has binge-watching affected your TV viewing habits? 

A few S&A readers share their answers below (feel free to add yours in the comment section). I think content creators should find some of these comments very useful, as you go about creating content for these very same people who are telling you exactly how they are consuming content currently. It's clear that there has indeed been a shift (granted these 20 replies don't necessarily reflect all of America; but I think they speak for a healthy enough population worth paying attention to. And I should add that piracy continues to be a significant problem for those content creators/distributors who remain defiant to consumer habit changes). 

For some who replied, there's the social media aspect that's missed in binge-watching, but apparently not missed enough to discourage them from continuing to binge-watch, as you will read below. 

I initially was going to summarize their replies, but I came to realize the benefits in reading each one in full; So read on, and hopefully learn something about your audience in the process. And please join the conversation in the comment section that follows: 

1 - Mo To ThaWilly My breaking bad obsession came from binge-watching the first 3 seasons. Right now, I'm bingeing on Misfits. I'm saving Blacklist and Crisis for the binge. its a better way to connect with episodic dramas, especially without commercials. it works best for those of us with busy lives who want to do nothing but veg for a spell.


2 - Evita M. Castine Totally - I like experiencing everything at one time rather than having to wait a week, you lose the feeling, when while you binge watch you can excitedly go to the next episode rather than trying to remember what happened last week. The only thing that's hard is avoiding people and situations who have already seen it who just let spoilers roll off their tongue, so you have to be strategic.

3 - Brandon David Wilson I have a 2 year old. I can't. Some shows are good for bingeing, some aren't.

4 - Dankwa Brooks Netflix (Disc only plan) has ordered my binge watching as well as Comcast OnDemand. For example, 'The Wire' final season (5) was the only one I watched LIVE. I watched the other seasons via Netflix discs. Here exactly are my binge watching habits. No matter how good the storyline is I CAN'T watch more than 3 one hour episodes a day. I just can't. Maybe four 44 minute episodes if the story is going that great, but usually I don't do anymore than two and save the rest for later. Half hour shows (22 minutes) I can watch about 4 or 5 episodes. Dropping cable since the recession has REALLY caused me to binge watch seasons of 'Homeland', 'Dexter', 'Boardwalk Empire' etc until when they hit Netflix which is usually a year later. It's hard not to get spoiled, but I'd rather binge watch than wait week to week. "oh you have a cliffhanger?" Click the remote --next episode. LOL

5 - Caroline Renard If I don't have time to really watch a show because there's so many, I just wait until the end of the season to watch it in one complete "binge watching" session. It's what I did for "Game of Thrones," "Orphan Black," "Homeland," "Orange is The Black." Plus having Netflix or hulu is cheaper than having cable.


6 - Reginald Hanna Binge-watching has totally changed my viewing habits. I can go to bed earlier on a weeknight rather than staying up for my shows. I can avoid most of the advertisements. I can see a storyline clear to the end. It's great.

7 - Ebony Utley Absolutely. If I miss the beginning of a new show I will wait to binge. And then all discipline goes out of the window. I won't start to binge unless I can finish in 1-2 days. But that strategy and the intensity of a season or series all at once leaves me depleted and more sensitive to the violence and stereotypes that have become most TV. It's a convenient way of watching TV but I don't think it's better for my psyche.

8 - Fillett Mignawn I binge-watched The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. Now that I'm all caught up with TWD, I'm glad to be able to discuss it with others. That's what I DON'T like about binge-watching - you miss out on the interesting conversations

9 - Andrea Plaid I think I became a "binge watcher" precisely because of what Candice said: I like to watch fictional TV like a movie--a continuous, uninterrupted arc. That way I can better see character and plot development, even consistency in lighting and costuming. That's how I caught up on shows like Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, Scandal, and others.

10 - Kevin Thomas I got into breaking bad because of binge watching on netflix. Without binge watching, I would of never watched the greatest show in the history of television

11 - Yasmine Mejia I beings watched 'Luther' and 'Breaking Bad' and Orange is the New Black. I admit, I was fiened out watching the shows. I was so consumed by it and my fiance and I would have discussions after a few episodes both artistic and storyline based. It is convenient if you don't have cable.

12 - Adam Wilson For some current shows I follow or am interested in checking out, I may wait a few weeks, let new episodes "pile up" in On Demand, and then spend a weekend afternoon watching all the episodes I haven't seen, usually before the season finale. However, for shows I'm late on watching (i.e. discovering LOST in its 5th season), I wait until the end of the current season and binge watch all the past seasons, sometime before the new season begins, usually over a few days (for LOST I watched 4 seasons in 6 days).

13 - Candice Raynor I am more likely to wait for several episodes of a show to accumulate before watching. Especially the half hour shows. I prefer to watch the episodes all at once like a movie and get the whole story or at least a large chunk of it, at one time. Scandal might be the only TV show I actually put in my schedule to watch every week.

14 - Pamela Jones Not in a rush to see shows on their regular day. Wish this was available when I was in college. I would have gone to my night time chemistry lab instead of watching Cosby Show and Different World

15 - Deidre-Ann Fuller Bingeing has allowed me to fit what I can in where I can, but the downfall is not being able to talk about it with other people while they are watching...

16 - Rhonda Ami I have been a television fan since I was a kid & now that I am a professor who studies and teaches popular culture I have found that binge watching to be one of the few ways that I can both enjoy and study a particular television show & the cultural messages that it brings. Though I am a heavy user of all sorts of technology, I do not own a DVR. This is an intentional choice. I know that it will sit under my television, collecting episodes that I will not have time to watch. This will induce more stress. “The DVR is filling up. I need to watch those shows.” Netflix (in particular) has allowed me to schedule “downtime” to watch shows that I am interested in, in clumps, for pleasure AND for analysis. There are times when I have constructed entire lectures (on topics upon which I had already planned to lecture) using examples from a show. For instance, after binge watching House of Cards, I lectured on the intersections gender and power as depicted in it and even showed clips. Additionally, I have a group of friends on Facebook who are interested in some of the same sorts of analyses of popular culture as I. We often have extensive discussions about the shows. This community of people (made of people that I already know & whose intellect I trust) quite often helps me to see things that I missed while watching, or just gives me the ability to say, “Oh my god! Did you see that?!”, which is, in part, how many current shows are written. We also give each other suggestions. Last summer, I watched several shows, about which I would rave, which would send my friends into binge watching frenzies, which we would then discuss on Facebook. It was great! Before Netflix, I had (still have) DVD’s of entire seasons of shows. The difference is that I had already faithfully watched those shows on network television and already loved them. I could lend the seasons to my friends, but it meant that we weren’t all watching at the same time. The one negative that I have found with binge watching via Netflix has been that the people with whom I do the most analysis (my friends on Facebook and students) don’t all watch at the same time. For instance, I got into House of Cards later than some of my friends, who PLEADED with me to watch so that we could talk about it. We’ve had some epic discussions too, but there are still stragglers, so when we do post about it, we are (usually) very careful not to issue spoilers. We are trying out a remedy for this when the second season of Orange is The New Black premieres. We are going to schedule a binge-watching weekend so that we can all watch at the same time and then talk about it. I do not think that I am overstating when I say that Netflix has revolutionized “television” viewing. Its format fits right into our “immediate gratification,” “time crunch” culture, but it also does something else. It slows us down by compelling us to take the time (that we might not otherwise) to watch 4 or 5 (or more) episodes of television shows that bring us some happiness. Binge watching is “a thing.” It’s by appointment. For women, especially, it is a luxury when we take care of ourselves. Before we binge watch, we take care of our families & get them all set up to survive without us for hours, gather snacks & a bottle of wine, set up our laptops, communicate with our friends and tell our family members not to bother us for the rest of the afternoon. This is new for our culture. Good television and film makes me happy. A television show or film that is well-crafted is much like a good book to me. Netflix, in particular, gives me access to it in remarkable easy & ubiquitous ways.

17 - Bernard Timberlake II .... YES!!! We Changed! !!! We (my household) actually watch Less Tv during the work week and do marathons (binge) on the weekends (starting Friday - Sunday evening). ...lol. JUST caught-Up to the most recent episode of "Mary Mary". It took us (my Wife and I) 3wks of weekend watching. Starting from S1, E1. *yes we left the house (occasionally. ..lol) "House of Cards" only took one weekend. But they had also put the WHOLE season up all at once. I gained 2lbs, THAT weekend. Streaming the shows IS the only way that 'We' watch Tv. Not having to rely on a dvr or paying for TV (paying cable providers) is a BIG help for us and our Family. We only pay for Internet. But don't ask me where the $130 a month (NY) savings is going. With 2kids in college. Every bit helps. I have a dedicated computer streaming to a 42" flat screen Tv with wireless keyboard and mouse. Old laptop as backup. So we can sit on the couch and click away! Black&SexyTv (YouTube) HULU, OV Guide, PBS (local and regional), NetFlix (group account), Shadow & Act (good links to independent original content), FORA.tv (EDU), Snag Films, Project Free Tv, and.... a few others! Hope that this (short) rant helps you out...lol Going back to watching "Suits" now! I had to pause the show to look into my 'Tv Favorites' folder and my Wife is getting impatient with Me

18 - Michael Jewett No and yes! We ditched the TV and cable about five years ago. I watch a few things online. The only way I watch TV now is through binge-watching.


19 - Antoine M Hicks I did that with sons of anarchy to see what it was about. Once I got caught up season six started and I was ready for it. I recently did the same for 24 just to be ready for the new mini series coming out for it since it was a few seasons I didn't see all the way through when it first came out. Binge watching is a way for those who do not have the time to watch it at that time and can't wait for the season episode by episode while it is going on so they can catch up. Not gonna lie I've let the past few episodes of scandal fill up just so I can have them back to back so I won't worry about waiting for the next episode each damn week.

20 - Christopher T. Hodge Being able to control how I want to watch and when I can watch my favorite shows has given me a power as a viewer I never want to let go. I'm not dependent on a station telling me when to watch my favorite shows. Forget that, I watch my shows when I CHOOSE to watch my shows. 20 years from now, we will see that Netflix has done to the TV industry as Napster did to the music industry.
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2 Comments

  • Phred G | March 26, 2014 3:38 PMReply

    Glad you brought up this topic. My first exposure to bw was THE WIRE. Not having cable I basically ignored the show til I saw a photo in the newspaper of Dominic West and Sonia Sohn ("WHOA! They got a BLACK actor on that show?!"). I started with the S1 dvd through S5. Outside of some NETFLIX 'play' shows (namely HouseOfCards) I do my b-w using dvds from the library. I played 'catch up' on GameOfThrones, DowntonAbbey, SonsOfAnarchy, etc. that way. Plus, being a part-time film student specializing in post-production, I enjoy watching the numerous commentaries by the cast/writers/producers/directors/crew for info (some shows like MadMen,GOT,Justified are the motherlode having numerous commetaries on the same episode). My only disappointment with these (stepping gingerly up on soapbox) is that black actors do not participate in the commentaries (unless they are the STAR) and when they are on-screen the commentariers seem to IGNORE them (i.e. She is acting her BUTT OFF in a scene and this fool starts talking about the SET DESIGN!). I sincerely hope that the dvd for SLEEPY HOLLOW and other new shows can correct this. (ok, down off the box. Again gingerly, I be gettin' old). Some current shows I b-w via the dvr stockpile. I will probably do that with Warehouse13 and Continuum. Even the shows that I HAVE to watch 'live' week2week (Scandal,NCIS,Grimm,etc)I time-shift by recording the 1st 25 or so minutes and then watching. This way I can FF through the ads and through the 'slooooooowly-walking-down-the-hallway/up-the-stairs/through-the-forest' and the 'what-ARE-they-LOOKING-AT?' shots. Currently b-w'ing a S1 dvd of The Americans. Long live Binge-Watching!!!

  • Eric | March 26, 2014 1:19 PMReply

    I don't know. I still love the anticipation and the discussion and the thinking about episodes on the week to week basis. I have "binge watched" in an effort to catch up to current seasons of things, but once I get to the point where I am caught up, I revel in the slow, week to week, development. Recent things like the final 8 Breaking Bad's (season 4 as well), True Detective, etc have been wonderful week to week, taking time to digest the developments as well as add some suspense to the proceedings. The week between the 5th and 6th episodes of Breaking Bad this last season were deliciously unbearable, and I kept playing moments in my head again and again. People say that they love watching these things as movies, but the fact of the matter is that they are not movies. Most shows aren't designed to be digested in a day (some are, especially nowadays), and I get so much more out of it if I can actually think about the proceedings instead of racing through them. On occasion I do get busy and fall behind an episode or two, and I will watch them back to back, but often times I'll forget more easily what's happening when I zip through. I also think the new fad of "after shows" is a nice testament to the week by week, where you can collectively get together and have a chat about what you've just seen. Whereas if I wait the year for netflix to finally pick something up, the moment has long since passed.

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