ON THE BINGE AGAIN

       In the category of “I told you so”, a few interesting reports were recently released stating upon the so-called “art” of binge TV watching-the ritual of consuming one’s favorite television series in one sitting.

     The folks at TiVo, the company that provides devices and services where one can capture i.e. “record” a video signal to consume at a later time (if at all), recently completed their second annual binge viewing report. According to the report conducted in March of this year, where some 12,458 people through an opt-in panel were tracked anonymously on an ongoing basis over their recording habits, as well as merging monthly attitudinal surveys resulting in their behavioral habits and television viewing, noted that 92% participated in some form of binge watching. Out of those, nearly three quarters (74%) viewed at least one full season (anywhere from six installments to as many as seventeen episodes per “season) of any given show over the course of a series of days. And out of those 74%, nearly half of them (49%) did it all alone. The report states that 53% of those binge watchers as a whole take everything without the presence of others.

     However, there is a price to pay (so to speak) when it comes to solo binge watching. 52% of those participating in the survey reported that they were experiencing sad feelings when they approach the end of a TV series. What’s worse, this method of TV watching has been disturbing some sleep patterns as well. TiVo’s research noted that 31% have lost sleep to bingeing, and 37% say they have spent entire weekends bingeing! However, the dark side of binge watching is easing off a bit. In TiVo’s first survey, 53% gave a negative perception of binge viewing. In the present time, 30% believe that watching every episode of a series is considered as “bad”.

     And speaking of “breaking bad”, there appears to be a reason why people will spend hours (or days) watching their favorite show all at once. (It has to be a favorite show! Otherwise, a TV viewer wouldn’t spend their valuable time tuning in upon the same series!)

The most obvious reason is the fact that when a new series becomes a “hit” and is talked about all over (either through real life or through social media), people will start watching a series in order to catch up–bingeing them to speed on what’s going on with who, what, when, where and how! Almost half (45%) of those noted that they binge just because they learned about a program after the fact and needed to keep up to date. 40% say some programs are better when watched back-to-back. The AMC series Breaking Bad has been toted that this back to back viewing jump started the binge rage, as well as enhancing its appeal! Between the last episode of the first half of season five and the first installment of the second half of the same season, (AMC tends to divide their program’s seasons over a longer period of time), the show’s ratings soared 121%–considering that not every viewer was watching all at once!

     Although one would expect a programmer to be pleased over this amount of viewing, they get thanks to the ads they run and the ones that supposedly pay the bills the networks have to go through. However, some 24% in the survey did admit that they binge watch just to avoid the commercials and other non program clutter that comes with the program! So much for the dollars spent for the ads!

     For the record, TiVo Research defined “binge-viewing” as watching at least three episodes of the same series on the same 24 hour day. “Season bingeing” is defined as watching an entire season (or more) of a specific program within a short period of time. (Hours, days, weeks, etc.)

     This is not the first time that this here news service reported upon the joys and sorrows of binge TV watching. In fact, we also reported that this form of viewing is far from being something new or unique. When home VCRs started to make its mark in the late 1970’s, some people started to record rerun episodes of the series Star Trek that would air locally. But those recording every episode watched right away to start the process over again. In 1979, the average retail price of a blank VHS 120 minute videotape was between $15.00 to $20.00 apiece. (Beta blanks were a bit cheaper, but not by much!)  So recording countess episodes were viewed once, only to be recorded over. However, one would record in the VCR’s slowest speed to cram in more material per tape. When blank videotape became cheaper dropping down to as little as $2.00 per cassette, people were more freer and more apt to record their favorite shows in order to watch them again for hours at a time–if at all! This is why one can find in private videotape collections (many of them eventually abandoned), collections of such programs as Dr. Who, Twilight Zone repeats, Star Trek and its many spin offs, etc. as recorded off the air from local TV stations.

     It’s rather interesting to note that TV bingers have now “come out of the closet” to admit that they do watch their favorite show all at once. They are no longer the “nerds” that would have watched episode upon episode of Space 1999 for six hours at a time! Many binge watching folks hold this task as a badge of honor! It’s much more “cool” to view the entire run of Empire just to tell their friends (real or virtual) about who’s going to do what to who and how!

     But fear not! People will actually watch a TV program or event as presented as it’s aired. However, it’s only during certain shows or during certain moments. TiVo’s research pointed out that between May 1st or ‘14 through April 30th of this year, the only times people dragged themselves tin front of a TV machine sans recording device were on the Independence Day weekend (Friday, July 4th through Sunday the 6th), Thanksgiving Day (November 27th), Christmas Day (December 25th), and Super Bowl Sunday, February 1st. The irony for those dates is with the exception of Super Bowl Sunday, many TV outlets run marathons of selected shows on those holidays from the standard sci-fi fare, to dramas and even sitcoms! One outlet ran the entire run of Friends during a holiday weekend from 3:00 PM Friday until the series ran itself out! Ditto for 25 plus years worth of the cartoon series The Simpsons that ran back-to-back for a little over two weeks!!

     To quote TiVo’s chief research officer Jonathan Steuer on this method of video viewing, “Bingeing is booming…and as programmers such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon continue to release original programming a full season at a time, we expect this trend to accelerate!”

     If this notion is a good or bad thing, this reporter will ask you the reader to be the judge and jury! Stay tuned!

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NEWS AND REVIEWS

     Sorry! No reviews on anything this week! Check back with us in the next issue for more news and reviews on theater performances, feature films, and a whole lot more!

     See you then!

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