Most industry observers concede that binge-viewing is a phenomenon that’s becoming more the norm than a trend, even as studies say it’s a physically and emotionally bad habit for most people.
A recent University of Toledo study found that 35% of more than 400 participants who consider themselves binge-watchers — those who watched two hours or more TV without any break on an average day the past week — reported higher levels of anxiety and depression than non-bingers.
“ ‘Binge-watching’ is a growing public health concern that needs to be addressed,” researchers said. That correlates with a similar study from the University of Texas that found the more 18-to-29 year-old study participants binge-watched TV shows, the more they became lonely and depressed.
If both surveys are correct, then a majority of Americans are chronically depressed and lonely people, according to a study by research firm Deloitte. The company’s Digital Democracy Survey revealed that 70% of U.S. consumers now binge an average of five episodes at a time, and 31% binge on a weekly basis.
“The survey data indicates that consumers are more willing than ever to invest in services to watch whenever, wherever, and on whatever device they choose,” said Gerald Belson, vice chairman and U.S. Media and Entertainment Sector leader for Deloitte Consulting.
Some cable networks, recognizing the binge-watching habit of viewers, are going all in and releasing episodes of new original series for viewers to watch at their leisure. Showtime last week jumped on the binge-viewing bandwagon and on April 10 will release all six episodes of its new comedy series Dice on its Showtime OTT service, its Showtime Anytime TV Everywhere service and via Showtime On Demand.
Also on April 10, Starz will release all 13 episodes of its limited drama series The Girlfriend Experiencevia its Starz Play and Starz On Demand services.
Of course, Netflix continues to fill its lineup with bingeready original series. It still doesn’t release viewership numbers for its titles, but its unmistakable value to viewers is due in large part to its willingness to provide quality content for subscribers to view whenever and however they want.
Photo: In a sketch on IFC's Portlandia, characters played by Fred Armisen (l.) and Carrie Brownstein fall into a binge-watching haze.