by Larry Magid
I don’t mind admitting that, for the past few days, I’ve been a binge TV viewer. That’s because Netflix released the second season of its hit show “House of Cards” and, unlike traditional TV networks, the company released the entire 13-episode season all at once.
In theory, it would be possible to turn on the TV at 9 a.m. one morning and watch every episode before catching the 11 p.m. news, but I haven’t gone that far. I have, however, watched five episodes over the past two days and will likely watch one or two — or perhaps three — each night until I’ve gone through all 13.
It’s not my first case of binge watching. I watched the entire first season of “House of Cards” over a few evenings and then watched the British series also on Netflix. My wife and I also watched all 100 episodes of “Monk” and five years’ worth of “Friday Night Lights” over the course of a few weeks.
I love this type of TV watching. In fact, I like it so much that sometimes I avoid watching shows during their current season so that I can wait and watch them sequentially when they’re available online. I’m breaking that rule with the current season of “Downton Abbey” and I haven’t decided what I’m going to do when “Mr. Selfridge” returns to PBS soon, but if I can, I think I might wait till I can watch them on my own time.
It turns out, I’m far from alone when it comes to this type of viewing. Last fall, Netflix commissioned a Harris Interactive survey (admittedly, Netflix had a stake in the outcome but Harris generally plays it pretty straight). The survey of 1,500 TV streamers found that “binge watching is a widespread behavior among this group, with 61 percent binge watching regularly.”
The survey found that 76 percent of TV streamers say watching multiple episodes of a great TV show is a welcome refuge from their busy lives, while 65 percent said that if they took a digital time out, they would still want to watch TV. And just in case you think that Facebook and Twitter rule the world, “80 percent of TV streamers say they would rather stream a good TV show than read a friend’s social media posts,” according to Netflix.
The other thing my wife and I have in common with others is that a lot of people binge in groups, or at least in pairs. While a third of binge viewers do so by themselves, 51 percent “prefer to watch with at least one other person.” Nearly four in 10 (39 percent) say they “save” TV shows to watch at a later date when their viewing mate is available.
I’d count my wife Patti and myself among that 39 percent, but I do have a confession. As much as I try to wait till she’s available to watch our favorite shows together, there are times when I cheat and watch on my own and she’s admitted that she does as well.
So far, I’m not aware of any 12-step programs for binge viewers, but if your viewing winds up interfering with your relationship, your work or your studies, then perhaps you should consult a professional. If not, enjoy the show. Just make sure you take breaks now and then.