Netflix and the rise of binge TV watching

Netflix has been giving viewers the opportunity to watch entire new seasons of TV shows in one sitting and — for better or for worse — many have been doing just that.

Watching an entire season at once can boost internet bill

TV binge-watching

9 years ago
Online services allow fans to watch entire season all at once. 2:39

Netflix has been giving viewers the opportunity to watch entire new seasons of TV shows in one sitting and — for better or for worse — many have been doing just that.  

When Netflix premiered its first original series, House of Cards, in February, it put all 13 episodes online on the same day.

"So I watched the entire thing in one weekend, which was ridiculous," recalled actress Kate Mara, who played reporter Zoe Barnes in the series.

But she said that kind of binge watching is an option that fits her busy lifestyle: "You don't have to wait however many months it usually takes — we'll just give you the opportunity to do that right this second."

Netflix is set to release the entire fourth season of the comedy series Arrested Development on May 26.

Arrested Development fans Jenny McLauchlin and Simon Daugulis are looking forward to the new season, but have mixed feelings about being able to watch all 15 episodes at once.

"It's obviously rewarding for a moment and then painful afterwards," McLauchlin said.

"I don't know if it makes it better or worse," Daugulis said. "You've invested so much time just straight up so at the end you're like, 'What do I do now?'"

Binge watching has another downside, since it can help viewers to blow through their internet plan's monthly download limits in a single weekend.

"I am certainly spending more on the internet," McLauchlin acknowledged.

New approaches possible

The trend of putting whole new series online at once hasn't just changed viewers' behaviour — it has opened up new possibilities for TV producers.

In the case of Arrested Development, each new episode focuses on a different character, an approach that might frustrate viewers watching each new episode a week after the previous one.

Michael Cera, who plays George Michael Bluth in the series, said Netflix isn't influenced by investors and other factors in the same way as traditional TV networks, "so they're very free, not bound by that kind of thinking."

Canadian writer and producer Peter Mohan, who is putting the finishing touches on the next season of the science fiction series The Listener, said that while he prefers the traditional weekly release model, the new format lets writers push the envelope.

"The shows that are naturals for that kind of [binge] watching are shows that are serialized, heavily serialized — a lot of complicated plot lines, a lot of characters, things that engage the audiences in a way that they become addicted," he said. "It becomes crack."