Television: Binge Viewing

I was reading this article in Variety today and it made me pause to think. Yes. Binge viewing is on the rise, at least based on my extremely unscientific analysis of my Facebook page, wherein many of my friends post about weekend-long sessions of television gluttony, watching entire seasons in 24-hour blocks while sustained by chips and ice cream (depending on the program). Just yesterday, while getting my nails done, the barber across the room and I had a conversation about his preferring to hold off watching American Horror Story because he felt it was "more cinematic" to watch it uninterrupted by ads, and the same could be said of shows—especially the hour-long dramas with overarching plot lines: that it's more like watching a very long movie if you wait until the season is over and queue up the episodes for a marathon run.

The television landscape is changing, thanks in large part to DVRs. A program's ratings can often appear poor when viewed mere hours after the original airing, yet add seven (what's called Live +7), or even three (Live +3) days to see who is watching the shows via DVR or On Demand within that first week of the original airing, and those ratings can change drastically. Something that appeared to be a poor performer becomes an after-hours champion.

But television (in America at least) makes its money by selling ad time. And advertisers aren't interested in DVR ratings because they can assume DVR viewers are fast-forwarding through the commercials. So what's a network to do when the live ratings are low?

Well, as the Variety article points out, nets like ABC refrain from ordering any additional episodes of slacking series. Which means viewers hoping to store up Last Resort or 666 Park Avenue for a rainy day pantry raid will find a shortage of fare. So viewers, take note: if you wait too long, the shows you're hoping to catch up on later will have passed their expiry dates. Maybe instead of eating entire gallons at one go, a pint now and again will serve everyone better.

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