We're a Country of Binge-Watchers, and We Feel Pretty Good About It
Binge-viewing has become our new normal, according to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Netflix.
The survey found that among U.S. adults who stream a TV show at least once a week, 61 percent binge-watch regularly. And the majority of us binge-watchers don't feel guilty about it -- in fact, 73 percent said they have positive feelings about the experience.
What is binge-watching, though? To me, the word (which, by the way, was a runner-up to "selfie" for Oxford Dictionary's word of the year) conveys an intense marathon of watching – an entire TV season manically consumed in a day or two. But most people, it turns out, don't see it this way – 73% percent of respondents defined the term in much more moderate language as "watching between two to six episodes of the TV show in one sitting." (Which begs the question: what's the word for watching an entire season in one sitting?)
This is a very sane definition, but our habits aren't necessarily so controlled. Netflix executives told The Wall Street Journal that they found a consistent pattern in the pace at which people binge: in general, about half the viewers studied had finished an entire season (up to 22 episodes) within one week. Not the fevered bout of five seasons of Breaking Bad in four days, but not the more restrained two episodes in one sitting, either.
"Our viewing data shows that the majority of streamers would actually prefer to have a whole season of a show available to watch at their own pace," said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of Netflix, in a statement.
But is it always a good idea to consume multiple episodes in one sitting? Before the release of the latest season of Arrested Development, series creator Mitch Hurwitz recommended restraint. “You’ll get tired!” Hurwitz told Vulture, before recounting a story about a producer who watched too many episodes back to back, with diminishing laughs each time. "You have to take a break," he advised. "There's too much material."
It's safe to say that most people probably didn't heed Hurwitz's warning, and binge-watched anyway (I know I did). The survey backs this up -- 79 percent of respondents said "watching several episodes of their favorite shows at once actually makes the shows more enjoyable."
While Netflix hasn't always been a huge fan of binge-watch "due to connotations of gluttonous or antisocial behavior," the company has finally embraced the word. Binge-watching, it seems, has come out of the dark and into the daylight, so to speak.