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Monday, September 1, 2014 | Last updated: 12:30am

Television industry must adapt to binge viewing



We all have those lazy days we’d much rather spend catching up on “Breaking Bad” or “Pretty Little Liars” while cozy in bed than studying. But after the first episode finishes comes the real challenge: to resist finding out what happens next and finally start that homework assignment you’ve been putting off. Before you know it, one episode has become an all-day marathon.

This is called “binge-viewing” and it is altering the television industry and how TV series are watched.

Binging in reference to most things implies negative connotations and this is no different with television. Watching too much TV is not the problem, it is watching it all at once that is.

Instead of taking time to consume, digest and enjoy, we are simply just stuffing ourselves as if every day in the television world has become Thanksgiving.

Netflix has been capitalizing on this new trend with a feature called “post-play” that encourages binge-viewing. When a TV show ends and the credits begin to roll, an algorithm determines the time when most previous viewers clicked off and at that moment, the credits minimize and a pop-up menu prompts the viewer to play the next episode. If they do nothing, the site counts down to when the episode will start automatically, usually twenty seconds or so.

It also released at once all 13 episodes of the first season of the drama series “House of Cards,” which was designed specificlly for Netflix. The show steers away from some of traditions of network TV, like “previously on…” flashbacks at the start of each episode. Producers of the show said as there is less reason to remind viewers what happened in previous episodes because so many will have just seen it minutes before.

These types of features entice the viewer to not only continue watching the series, but also to continue watching on that site. It’s like bait hanging out of our screens, and once we take it, we are hooked.

Patience has run thin when watching a series. Most individuals just want everything laid out and answered at once instead of taking the time to sit back and actually enjoy what they are viewing.

Online viewing sites like Netflix, SideReel and Hulu grant users effortless access to shows and movies from their laptops, tablets and phones. Many college students don’t even have cable or a television anymore because it’s so easy to watch everything online.

With subscriptions to websites like Netflix averaging under $10 a month, the temptation to watch entire seasons in one weekend becomes near-irresistible.

Engineering freshmen Kendra Staggs, on the other hand, said she still thinks television should be watched in moderation, adding that that’s one of the reasons she doesn’t have a Netflix account.

“I think it is fine as long as you are not prioritizing it over other important things,” said Staggs. “I think [the show] would lose suspense that will go along with it.”

Shows aren’t usually produced with binge-viewers in mind, so its artistic value can be lost as the tension of cliffhangers and suspenseful endings dwindles into mere seconds. Television as a medium is being altered in many ways, which means its future will be based on the industry’s ability to adapt.

— Razanne Chatila is a journalism sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on twitter via @WildcatOpinions.


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