The advent of Netflix has brought about a new style of binge-watching television. People were afraid of this new ‘thing’ taking over, as has always happened: TV was to kill radio; the internet was to kill print.
But neither of those happened. And nor will Netflix kill traditional television.
I’m writing this as I wait patiently for the third episode of Game of Thrones to emerge from the woodwork. (Don’t worry, though – there won’t be any spoilers about it, or any other series.)
Streaming sites like Netflix give people more power than ever to choose how they watch television. This can have advantages – But let’s face it, people don’t have the self-discipline to resist having too much too fast.
While having a weak-will is all well and good for those who have time to set aside for a binge, others need to set aside regular slots over a longer period if time is hard to come by.
In theory, this is all fine. Everyone watches at their own pace. You can watch television as an individual.
But what’s the first thing you do when you watch a television programme? You talk about said television programme. Maybe you go online to see what other people are saying about said television programme. You could even comment underneath articles regarding the contents of said television programme. If you’re a mad yoke you could tweet a screengrab about said television programme.
If you’re not the type to binge watch television, this can make social media a treacherous place to be. Seeing a key screenshot from an episode you haven’t watched pop up on top of your timeline is about as pleasant as drinking a carton of milk left on a Turkish beach for a week. It can ruin your experience.
And for many, the urge to binge watch is brought upon by the fear of other people giving stuff away on the internet and social media. It’s also partly because people want to participate in the debate as soon as possible.
Is it fair to ask people to stay away from social media for weeks on end until they catch up with the debate? No. Is it fair to ask people to stifle their debate until everyone has watched? Absolutely not.
The fact that full series’ of shows like Game of Thrones aren’t being dumped on online streamers like Netflix makes the weekly offering that much more special, inclusive.
Television is a community experience that Netflix and co just can’t capture.
You feel like you’re going on a journey with the entire audience. The gradual feeding of shows works gives a show a sense of momentum. The speculation on social media every week gives you a hunger to continue.
More studious viewers might show you details that might never have picked up on if we had rocketing through the middle of the series (at 3am while your summer holidays ran out.)
You can try and emulate that experience on the online streamers, with a small group of friends, but even then, you are only as strong as the weakest link. My 3 housemates and I decided, “Right, we’ll watch Narcos together”.
We made it to 2 episodes before one of us sped ahead. The rest of us had to wait for an opportune time to accommodate for the cheap ass who didn’t bother paying for Netflix (Me). Needless to say I still haven’t made it past that second episode.
Not only are these things negative for the viewer, it’s a negative for the TV bosses who actually want to make money from these series’. People dropping out could lead to people simply not bothering continuing.
But, by releasing a new episode every week, and Game of Thrones applying such great teasers and build-up techniques, you would bite a producer’s hand off to see a glimpse of next episode – although perhaps that was brought on by the gore that George R.R. Martin has bred into us 6 seasons in.
Bingers face negatives too – if they finish it the weekend it comes out, they’ve got an extra few months to wait for the new series.
Television is about more than just watching stories play out before your eyes, it’s about the debate that comes with it. Netflix has a lot of positives, there’s no doubt, but until Facebook gives us a ‘Spoiler Filter’ following a plot as complex as Game of Thrones, step by step is best.