Tag Archives: Netflix

How to Stop Binge-Watching

Thirty-years ago if you told someone that you ‘binge-watched’ MacGyver over the weekend they would have looked at you funny — mostly because binge-watching wasn’t really common parlance, but also because you couldn’t binge-watch in the 80s the way that you can now. Today, you can fire up your computer (or set-top box) and stream episode after episode. Heck, you could even watch episode after episode on DVD or blu-ray, if you’re into that kind of thing. It’s become so easy to binge-watch shows and in part, is contributing to people actually binge-watching more shows.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t binge-watched a show. In fact, that was part of the reason that I first signed up for Netflix in February of 2013 — to watch House of Cards. And did I watch one episode and then wait a week? No. I finished the first season in a weekend. I also finished season 2 in a weekend, but who’s keeping track. Well, since we’re confessing, I also caught up on four and a half seasons Breaking Bad relatively quickly (4 or 5 weeks?) before the last half of the final season was to begin.

I should make it clear that I’m not encouraging binge-watching, but simply providing evidence that I’ve got plenty of experience with it, which brings me to my point:

How to stop binge-watching.

I don’t remember how I stumbled on this little trick, but it has certainly helped me when I needed to pull myself away from a set of gripping episodes. This method works particularly well for a show that uses a lot of cliffhangers or plot twists near the end of an episode (Scandal is a good example, however the finale to season three, which was essentially three season finales in one, might confound this). Instead of watching the whole episode before calling it quits for the night/afternoon, you’ve got to stop the episode well before they introduce a new plot twist. One way to do this is to “hang up” very near to the reveal of the climax. It’s in the falling action where they get you!

I realize that the show isn’t meant to be watched in this way, but I’ve found myself, on many occasions, where I wanted to stop watching, but kept getting sucked in at the end of an episode. After enough times of this happening, I realized that I needed to end the episode before the end of the episode. Hence, stopping the episode somewhere after the climax (usually somewhere two-thirds into the episode).

One of the potential criticisms to this method is that you’ve got to “fast-forward” to the point where you’ve left off. That’s true only if you’re not using something like Netflix. When you end an episode with Netflix part-way through, it picks up where you’ve left off (in fact, it rewinds it a few seconds sometimes). Since this is pretty much the only way I’ve binge-watched shows, I can attest to it working splendidly.

What’s Better: Binge-Watching TV or Movies?

Quite some time ago (maybe 1-3 years ago?), I remember Matt Yglesias writing something about how movies were far superior to TV shows. That opinion has stuck with me for a while. It’s not that I agreed or disagreed, but I found the idea curious. With the explosion of binge-watching, I wondered if Matt Yglesias still thinks that movies were far superior to TV shows.

That is, when you can watch 3-5 hours of a TV show and really get into the intricacies of the plot in one sitting, does that somehow make it better than a 1.5- to 2-hour movie?

More recently, there’ve been a couple of interesting articles about movies and binge-watching. The first, on movies, discusses how going to the movies is a shared experience and how that might be dying out. The author explains that fewer people are going to the movies, even though ticket sales are at an all-time high (increased prices). She closes by saying that she thinks only a limited number of movies will debut in the theatre and the rest will go straight to video.

I think she’s right — the movies as a shared experience is dying out. However, I don’t think “shared experiences” are dying out. Instead, I think they’re moving away from the movies to other events like the one the author mentions, but not in the same context, the Oscars. Or perhaps the Superbowl is another good example. More than that, I wonder if we’re substituting the shared collective experience of going to the movies for binge-watching.

The second article, on binge-watching, argued that humans are wired to binge-watch. With the rise of online video streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon (Prime), it’s not surprising that people are spending more time watching videos online and at home than they are going out to the theatre. I would posit that as more people binge-watch, the more other people also want to binge-watch.

Think about shows like House of Cards or Orange is the New  Black. These shows were released all at once on a Friday. As a result, some people will have watched the whole season before going back to work on Monday. As a way to stay “part of the conversation,” some people may feel compelled to watch the whole season, too. Given that we’re already wired to binge-watch, it’s not surprising that this might become self-reinforcing. 

This leads me to my argument that binge-watching might be replacing movie-going as the norm when it comes to shared experiences. After you’ve binge-watched House of Cards or some other series, maybe you start binge-watching that series that you never got into when it was on TV (Lost? Frasier? The West Wing?). There are a lot of series that are on Netflix and there are also lots of series on some of the other online streaming sites.

After having a baby fall asleep on my lap/shoulder night after night, I think my vote might be for binge-watching.

Cable TV in Trouble? 43% of Young Adults Subscribe to Netflix

I’ve written a few times about TV, but a post from Mashable (with data!) convinced me even more that TV, or at least the viewers of it, are headed elsewhere. Take a look at the graphic below:

Pay close attention to the % of American adults who subscribe to Cable TV and Netflix. In particular, notice the 18-36 age category. For cable TV, 46% of this age group subscribes and for Netflix, 43% of this age group subscribes. The difference is negligible. We can also look at the subscription rates for satellite TV (16%) and then two other online sources: Amazon Prime (17%) and Hulu Plus (8%).

No doubt, some of the folks who subscribe to Cable TV may also subscribe to Netflix and other online sources, but it seems pretty clear where the trend is headed. In fact, if we look back at the Cable TV subscription rates across all age groups, we see a sloping line from the bottom left to the top right. If you’ll notice, there’s a decided decrease in Cable TV subscription rates from the older age groups to the lower age groups. Similarly, there’s the inverse relationship when we look at online places like Netflix and Amazon Prime. There’s a decided increase as you get into the lower age groups.

On the Absurdity of Celebrity: To Rome With Love

It’s been a little over a week since my last post as I’m still settling into Ottawa. As a result, I’ve accumulated some things to write about. I’ll try to get through them all in the next couple of days as I’m really excited to get back to writing posts that are appropriate for Research Blogging.

As you can see from the title of today’s post, I happened to watch To Rome With Love (thank you Netflix!) I had seen Midnight in Paris some time last year and folks recommended that I might enjoy Woody Allen’s next film (actually, it was his next next film, but who’s keeping track?) To Me, Rome seemed to be a lot different from Paris, but I won’t really talk about any of the differences in case you haven’t seen either and might want to. However, I do want to talk about one of the subplots of Rome — celebrity.

Leopoldo Pisanello, played by Roberto Benigni, is a clerk who lives an otherwise mundane life. However, one day, he wakes up to find himself a celebrity. Reporters and paparazzi swarm him at his front door asking questions and snapping pictures. He ends up on TV and the host asks him about what he ate for breakfast, whether he wears boxers or briefs, and if he thinks it’ll rain. He gets a promotion at the company he works at and the boss’s secretary sleeps with him. He goes to fancy movie premieres, but the attention wears on him. You start to see the character become fatigued from answering so many mundane questions about himself.

Towards the end of this subplot, the character has a bit of an outburst. During this outburst, the press spot another man who looks “more interesting,” so everyone floods over to that man as paparazzi snap pictures and reporters ask questions.

I’ve never been a celebrity, so I can’t speak personally to the experience, but I think that Woody Allen does a great job at poking fun at how we, as a society, have created this absurd culture of celebrity.

 

It’s 2013: Why Isn’t TV Live Streamed Online?

About a month ago, I wrote a post about the future of TV. I came to the conclusion that it was surprising that there wasn’t “live TV” online. That is, I am surprised that you can’t watch a TV on your laptop at the same time as you could watch it on your TV. Of course, I understand why that might not be the case right now (advertising, contracts, etc.), it seems like this form of entertainment is moving in this direction. When you take into account mobile TV, one has to think that live streaming TV shows is on the way, right?

It turns out that I’m not the only one frustrated by the lack of online TV streaming. Xeni Jardin, an editor/partner at Boing Boing (a rather popular technology zine), also shares this frustration:

As you can see, Xeni seems to think that we should be able to watch TV shows online at the same time that we can watch them on TV. This doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request, right?

It turns out, many of you out there agree with Xeni and I:

Market researcher GfK says 51% of those 13-54 years of age watch a TV program or movie via streaming video platforms. This is up from 48% in 2012 and 37% higher than three years ago.

What’s even more convincing is that the data go on to show that many folks would drop their Netflix service if cable companies offered a similar service at a similar price.

It seems to me one of a few things are happening:

a) TV executives already know all of this, but have run the data a different way and don’t think that people would actually follow-through on what they say when they answer these polls. [Not necessarily a response bias, but something more to the effect of the people who intend to vote on election day, but don’t.]

b) TV executives know this and they’re trying to convince the right people (CEO?) that this is what they need to do.

c) TV executives don’t know about these data.

Option c) seems the least likely, but I suppose it’s possible. Option a) seems like it could be plausible, but my guess is that the majority fall into option b). As a result, there seems to be a window of opportunity for an enterprising network to take a leap of faith and capture a great deal of value. Who’s going to be first?

There is No Spoon: The Future of TV

I don’t watch much TV and part of this is precipitated by the fact that I don’t currently own a TV. The TV that I do watch, however, is, for the most part, online. [Except in cases where I’m visiting someone who has TV and we’re watching something together.] Shows that I started watching years ago (when I had a TV) like Grey’s Anatomy or The Big Bang Theory often post the full episode online the next day. This is very convenient as I’m not required to be in front of my TV on a Thursday night to watch these shows.

I always find it disappointing when a show that I might be interested in does not have an online version. This got me thinking about what the future of TV might be. I remember seeing a PPT from Business Insider at the turn of the new year (to 2013) that analyzed the way people use technology. That is, it took into account mobile devices, TV, computers, etc. The trend, as you might guess, is to mobile. More and more people are using their phones for things. As a result, there’s certainly money to be made in advertising in the mobile arena.

Then I thought, why haven’t TV shows made the leap to mobile? Or, why is this leap taking so long? If more and more people are using their phone to interact with the world, then wouldn’t it behoove TV networks to start making their content more accessible on a mobile device?

As I’m moving back to Canada in the next few weeks, I’ve been looking at cell phone plans. [Note: it is outrageously more expensive for mobile plans in Canada than in the US!] One thing I noticed was that Bell (one of the telecommunications companies in Canada) has an option just like I was thinking. You can watch live TV on your cell phone. After seeing this, I thought I’d look at some of the US companies to see if they had it and sure enough, they have this, too.

As it turns out, companies have already made the leap to mobile and it’s moved faster than I thought (I guess that’s what you get when you don’t have a cell phone for 4+ years).

My next thoughts move to the internet. There must be lots of people like me who like to watch the shows online the next, otherwise they wouldn’t be available like they are. So, I wonder if there’s rumblings of moving to live TV internet. That is, instead of posting the video the next day, why not broadcast the show online at the same time you do on network TV?

I’m sure there’s probably lots of red tape with this kind of an option as advertisers have paid to target certain demographics at certain time and so on and so forth. But wouldn’t this open up a whole new market for TV networks — people who’d prefer to watch online?

I came across a Kevin Spacey speech a few days ago that talks about this very fact.

[Note: The first half of the title is a famous line from the movie, The Matrix.]