How Will Binge Viewing Change TV?

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Ever watched a whole TV series all at once? That’s binge viewing.

It’s twice the fun of binge eating with half the regret. And it’s the new way to watch TV, compliments of Tivo and streaming services such as Netflix.

I do it all the time. I’ll save up a whole series in my tube storage on Tivo or deposit a good show in my Netflix queue to watch on a rainy day, or during a flu, or when my husband is out of town. I watched the entire 7-season run of Buffy The Vampire Slayer in 2011. It was a special time for me.

Netflix has been out in front of these major TV-viewing changes. They released their original political drama House of Cards earlier this year, all 13 episodes at once for viewers to consume at will. And now Dreamworks Animation is creating the first original Netflix series for kids, Turbo:F.A.S.T. By creating original content, Netflix hopes to get a leg up on other streaming services.

It has been disappointing to watch good shows like Up All Night scramble to please networks and pull in more viewers by changing formats (and losing talent). I sort of love the idea of a series getting the green light, filming, and releasing all of its episodes at once without having to second-guess itself during mid-season cancellations. Yay for artistic integrity!

Despite the after-school-special-starring-Tracey-Gold connotations of the term, binge viewing may not be such a bad thing for families. Deliberately watching a whole series that you’ve researched and added to your queue can be a lot better use of your time than mindlessly channel surfing and watching whatever network television serves up (2 1/2 Men, I’m looking at you.) And I always preview a series before I give my 15-year-old son the OK to watch. Then he’ll sit down and Netflix a whole series like Lost, Psyche, or X Files in one glorious binge on a long holiday weekend. (He’s nothing if not dedicated.)

People still like to watch television live, if for no other reason than to live-blog/Tweet/Facebook Status the show. Most people binge view old episodes of a show they missed and then watch live. That’s what I did after the 1st season of Downton Abbey. This binge viewing thing is especially nice for a mom like me. Sometimes it takes a season or 2 for me to pick up on the latest TV buzz. It’s nice to be able to watch a series on my own schedule.

Even the Nielsen Ratings are getting with the program and have made adjustments to include web-linked TV. So now if you have cancelled cable (read: got sick of paying for it) and use something like Hulu or Netflix to watch all your stories you can be counted by Nielsen as a “television household.”

It sure feels good to make a difference.

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