In the age of instant access, the concept of binge watching TV is still relatively new. But with Netflix’s go at episodic programming and full seasons of shows on demand at Hulu and Amazon, the way audiences like and even expect to watch media is shifting.
More and more we see viewers, and some network executives, praising “the binge.” Online distributors have even jumped on the binge-wagon when it comes to their own original programming, which includes Emmy winners Transparent (Amazon) and House of Cards (Netflix).
Meanwhile, this summer NBC became the first broadcast network to attempt a version of the online binge model with its dark Charles Manson drama, Aquarius. It’s a big step for networks that rely on the week-to-week model, not just in terms of narrative, but for business.
Binge watching does, in its own way, offer a more immersive and personal viewing experience. You can watch as much or as little as you want, when you want, over whatever period of time you want to do so, with the added bonus of no commercials (in most cases). It’s media-on-demand, and a level of control most TV watchers have dreamed about for years.
But despite its silent, creeping takeover, there has been some push-back against the consumption model as of late. Even Netflix, a pioneer in the arena, is stepping out of form with the introduction of Between, a Canadian co-production set to be released in weekly installments. So far there hasn’t been any negative response the distribution shift, with viewers still flocking week after week to catch a new episode.
It raises an interesting question though about whether binge-watching is a new format or a new fad. While it’s clear that watching this way has its merits, both Netflix’s foray into the weekly release as well as some negative opinions about the binge platform itself suggests that the format doesn’t necessarily reign supreme for all series or watchers.
Is it better to binge or not to binge? What kinds (and qualities) of series are better binged, as opposed to those rolled out over time? To answer that question, we’ve put together a list of things that can help make for a good (or bad) binge series.
The Low Performing Favorite
Networks, artists and fans alike might find that having the ability to binge watch currently airing series on their last leg is exactly what everyone wants. It usually costs more to start and promote a new show than it does to keep a current show afloat, so if a network is given the chance to pump less money into its schedule (with the hopes of getting more back on their investment), it will take it. Meanwhile, series creatives get to keep their gigs and fans don’t have to say goodbye to their favorite characters just yet.
Binge-watching is attributed to Breaking Bad’s success and the ratings re-rise of The CW’s Supernatural, now headed into its 11th season. When it started, Breaking Bad had a small, but passionate fan base.
Word of mouth promotion ultimately helped the show grow after its seasons began streaming on Netflix. Curious viewers binged what they had, then turned to watching it weekly with their fellow fans.
Supernatural also got a considerable ratings boost after facing a near death sentence at The CW.
Following the network’s streaming deal with Netflix, the fantasy series found itself climbing the ratings ranks to become one of The CW’s highest rated shows — once again.