Monday, February 4, 2013

Television Binge-Viewing

Dawn C. Chmielewski recently wrote an article on the LA Times talking about how Binge-viewing is transforming television, or will cause a transformation.  Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu are making it easier for people to watch movies and TV shows whether you pay for cable or satellite carrying the networks not.  

If you pay the expensive price of cable or satellite you can watch, or Tivo for later (which still can lead to this) you watch a show during it's aire time, then you wait a week for the next episode.  That's the way things have been since the beginning of TV shows, but now it's cheaper and more satisfying to pay less for a service such as Netflix or Hulu and watch those TV shows on your own time, and you have the added benefit of viewing multiple episodes rather than one per week.

To be sure you these services have changed the way I view TV shows as well, but it didn't particularly start with Netflix for me.  Waiting and then "binge-viewing" an entire season over the course of a several days rather than half a year, has been how I prefer to consume TV shows since they started being released on DVD.  The benefit of Netflix is that the whole process is cheaper and available on the go.

Netflix has grown to the point of becoming their very own network.  They have released their own show, "House of Cards," but that's not even the interesting part.  They've released all 13 episodes of the show at once knowing that society, and the way they consume TV, has changed.  

The bigger question is what this will do for the networks that still produce shows traditionally.  It may end up having little impact, but I doubt that other services such as Hulu and Amazon Prime will sit on their hands after seeing Netflix release their own content.  It's one thing to offer similar content if not the same content, but what separates the TV networks is the fact that they produce their own content.  If you want to see "House of Cards" you'll have to pay for Netflix. It's another way Netflix can sway a person to subscribe to them rather than the competition.

Will we see these online streaming companies turn into networks themselves?  It could be a new wave in television, and if it is, how will the real TV networks react?  Remember when ebooks first came out and some thought that just maybe hard copy books might be going out in favor of digital books and ereaders/tablets?  I have the feeling that we can make a similar comparison.  The same was said of music.  CD and record sales have taken a hit due to digital copies of music.  Some people (myself included) tend to favor buying digital music rather than hard copies of music because it's cheaper and available everywhere thanks to cloud storage. 

Is TV the next thing to go?  Maybe way out there in the future hard copy books and music will start to go away in favor of digital copies, but that's a big maybe.  TV shows on TV networks won't go away either, at least not anytime soon.  

However, that's not the change that people are expecting from this.  
"The instant-availability formula dispenses with cliffhangers designed to prevent the audience from fleeing during commercial breaks and woo them back for next week's installment. There is no need for comprehensive recaps of the previous week's episode because Netflix assumes that viewers won't miss a beat.
The absence of ads means that each episode has more time for story lines and relationships — as much as 15 more minutes of story per television hour."
Perhaps a more subtle change is in order. Perhaps we won't worry that TV networks will suffer (at least no more than they already have due to online streaming and piracy), but they may have to change the way they produce and distribute their content.
"If successful, the gambit could begin to unwind 60 years of serialized television convention — especially if others begin to emulate Netflix's approach."
We've seen the television drama change over the years. Today we have many film-quality TV shows, that feature more gritty suspenseful storylines.  If we can watch multiple episodes at once these shows could turn even more into long drawn out films.

No matter how you look at it, it's interesting to think of the future of TV shows.

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