Binging

CNBC came out with a recent article about binging that I found very interesting. It basically talks about which shows are most likely to be binged. Seems like it's suggesting there's a correlation between binge-ability and genre.


What do you guys think? Are there certain things in a serial (whether it be televised, on the web, in comics, or what have you) that make you more or less likely to binge it?


How does action impact binge-ability versus character dynamics? Is binge-ability linked with genre?


I'd love to hear your thoughts.


I find that article kind of ridiculous, actually. I feel like they're testing less the sort of thing people are likely to binge, and more the sort of thing people WITH NETFLIX are likely to want to discuss online/with friends/whatever. It says "members blow through Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black, and The Walking Dead"... well, sure. I've heard tons about those, see Tweets about the latter, etc. They're popular. Conversely, it says members are "captivated by House of Cards, Narcos, and Bloodline". I had to look that second one up, I thought maybe it had something to do with narcolepsy. (Can you tell I don't have Netflix?)


Unless you actually ASK people, there's no way to know whether they're burning through "Sense8" (which to be fair I also had to look up) in order to chat with their friends about it, because they actually experienced an "emotional response" (as the article claims) or because they're doing research for a science fiction column they have to turn in on Friday. Similarly, maybe people are taking longer with other shows because it's the sort of show that mostly police officers like to watch, and police officers don't HAVE 2+ hours of time in a day to binge on Netflix. (Ok, can't speak for police officers - I know most teachers sure don't.)


Then again, maybe I bring my own bias in here: I am NOT a binge-style person. When people talk about reading Jim Z's 6+ year archive in under a week, I'm baffled. Once I reach a certain point, my brain needs time away to process no matter WHAT the genre. So I usually plan when I start, "I'm going to watch 4 episodes" or "I'm going to read two arcs", and I don't often deviate. Occasionally, when something unexpected happens (can be dramatic or funny), I'll need to take a few minutes away to consider, before returning. I suppose I am more likely to add an extra arc or something at the outset if it's a genre I know I enjoy, versus something I'm reading just to try it out... but yeah, kinda questioning the assumptions made for this study.


I think there are a whole lot of variables at work. As math points out, you'd need to separate out the binge-ability of a show from any given individual's ability to binge (because of the limiting time factors), but I think the article makes a couple of good points, too. Although I think the definition of "genre" is too fuzzy (as it usually is), because sci-fi or fantasy or superhero shows or other genres that are defined by the setting of a story can also be dramas or comedies or action/adventure plots. And I think the binge-ability has more to do with the typical plot structures than with the setting. If you've got a show that deliberately ends an episode on a cliffhanger, then that ups the likelihood the viewer is going to let the next episode play. (And I think that mechanic within Netflix is a big factor in the bingeing, too, because it makes your choice "Do I just sit here and let it keep playing?" instead of "Do I get up from my chair and click the next episode?")


Characters are going to play into it, too, because if you end on a cliffhanger of a character you like being shot then you're more likely to want to find out what happens next and keep going. For example, it's way easier for me to watch one episode of Criminal Minds, where the story is generally a self-contained episode, than it is to watch one episode of Fringe, where there's an overarching plot for the entire season/show. Especially when I get near to the end of a season and the overarching plot deliberately picks up speed. Or the end of a series, where I'm utterly invested in the characters. On the flip side, I agree with the theory that some shows with more complex plots encourage some processing time between episodes. All of the above, of course, is weighted by the temperament of the person viewing those shows--whether they like that genre or type of show, whether their natural tendency is to prefer savoring or bingeing.


And I think math makes an excellent point about popularity binge-watching. One of my sons and I enjoy a lot of the same shows, and there have been times when one or the other of us will "hurry to catch up" so we can talk about the show. (He likes to "talk shop" with me and pick apart plots and character development and so forth. What an awesome son.) And there's a definite peer pressure in my different friends groups to be sure you're up to date so you can gasp and gossip over the latest episode of whatever the group's favorite shows are.


Yeah, I definitely don't think the article got everything right, but I do think it's a nice jumping-off point for discussion, because of the questions it raises and the connections it makes. In particular, I'm interested in the relationship between genre and bingeability. I've binge-watched sitcoms before, but it's a very different than binge-watching a thriller. With the former I'm looking to have a fun time and just sort of chill with it, whereas with thrillers there's that intense sense of NEEDING to watch the next episode.


@mathans: There are a number of reasons why someone might binge through a show, and it's not always due to an emotional response. But I think, if you're binging a show in order to talk about it w/ friends (or to write a column about it), the show has still done something interesting -- something worth examining. You know, there's something about the show that makes people want to talk about it. Something about the show that lets it reach that pop cultural boiling point that we saw Game of Thrones achieve.


@LEErickson: I think you're right about the trickiness of linking binge-ability and setting. To a certain extent, I think one of the appeals of binging is immersion in the world. But getting to that point of immersion usually happens because of the plot mechanics a work of fiction uses. Talking about sitcoms vs thrillers makes sense. Sure, not all thrillers are the same and not all sitcoms are the same. But their emotional goals and tropes are similar enough to merit comparison.


You can have a sci-fi thriller or a sci-fi comedy. You can have something densely philosophical or dumb-as-hell. So the genres that don't seek to evoke particular emotional reactions aren't as useful for examination.


Take Daredevil, for instance. I imagine the bingeability of Supergirl, Daredevil, and The Arrow are all pretty different. And yet the article's infographic -- The Netflix Binge Scale -- acts as if Daredevil represents all superhero dramas. It doesn't, really.


I'm much more interested in the emotional triggers that lead someone to binge or not-binge. As well, I'm curious how world building impacts bingeability.


Knowing there's an end, with end defined as a story has a beginning, a middle and an end, I'd get more interested to binge.


I doubt I'd binge a sitcom type of series, because of the lack of plot-arcs.


The kind of story where continuity really matters are more or less a must binge for me. When important stuff happens in episode three that have reprecussions in episode eleven, well watching an episode a week I'll have forgotten too much to see how it was all connected.


In short: no arc, no binge.