In early September, my 11-year-old son filled out a get-to-know-you school questionnaire, listing his favorite things - tigers, the color orange, and...binge-watching.
My boy, who dove deep during summer break into Alphas (originally on Syfy, now on Netflix, highly underrated), has tons of company. More than 75% of TV Guide users say they binge-watch regularly. Remarkably, a behavior for which we didn’t even have a name a few years ago is now an exploding mass-market consumer habit that is changing the TV game - and benefitting both consumers and entertainment companies - in three major ways:
1. Binge-watching is fueling consumers’ ever-growing appetite for more programming. This fall, 24% of TV Guide app and website users told us they watch more than 40 hours of TV per week, up from 17% in 2012. That’s right. The percentage of people watching more than 40 hours of television per week is exploding, up 41% in two years. Consumers are actually watching more broadcast, cable, and digital original shows -- on demand, on their DVRs, and on SVOD services. More is the operative word, and the TV ecosystem is thriving.
As their viewing options increase, consumers tell us they love having a wealth of outstanding programming just a few clicks away on any device, at any time. And they’re greedy for more. With this trend in mind, the industry is working to establish new metrics for cross-platform viewership. Critical darling Transparent, Metacritic’s highest-rated new show this season with a score of 91, won big for Amazon at last week’s Golden Globes. Since they’re sure to be seeing a spike in viewership now, isn’t it about time Amazon (and Netflix) also released viewership numbers?
2. Binge-watching is changing production formats, whether you’re producing full episodes or 90-second reviews. Tina Fey, who is launching her next show, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, on Netflix, says she finds the streaming format “freeing,” she explained at earlier this month at the Television Critics’ Association meeting in Los Angeles.
At CBS Interactive, the leaders of most of our 25+ digital brands also have the freedom to experiment in the binge-watching business, whether our users are watching full episodes from CBS All Access, tech videos from CNET, video game reviews from Gamespot or behind-the-scenes set interviews from TV Guide. Our teams are focused on producing addictive series, innovating with new distribution models and designing video player experiences that move seamlessly from one video to the next.
3. Binge-watching is forcing new marketing and distribution windows industry-wide. Over the holidays, some distributors launched marketing campaigns designed to promote holiday marathon viewing – when consumers have tons of downtime (aka going stir crazy while holed up with relatives for the holidays).
Content creators of all kinds are doing this. We’ve seen broadcast and cable networks market catch up viewing for shows between seasons to acquire new fans and drive bigger numbers for second season debuts. Streaming, on demand and yes, even DVD sales, are giving fans the luxury of turning on to shows they didn’t catch the first time around.
We already have a year-round network television calendar with mid-season and summer launches. As a practitioner and a fan, I’m looking forward to pushing the premium content competition to new heights this year...and to what surprises are ahead in next September’s get-to-know-you school quiz.