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Binge Watching

Motivations and Implications of Our Changing Viewing Behaviors

Bridget Rubenking and Cheryl Campanella Bracken

This book situates binge watching as one of several new television viewing behaviors which collectively contribute to a fundamental change in the way we view television today. Simply put, binge watching changes, or has the potential to change, everything: Engagement, immersion, attention to content and other devices, identification with characters and social engagement with fellow viewers, as well as content choices, and cable and over-the-top (OTT) subscription rates. Binge watching has quickly become a new norm in television viewing across audiences.

Binge Watching reviews historically significant advancements in the television industry and in technology that better enable binge watching, such as timeshifting, increasing quantity and (sometimes) quality of content, as well as distribution strategies and suggestions algorithms employed by OTT providers. We situate binge watching as human-centered, that is, driven by innate human needs and wants, such as a desire to consume well-constructed stories and to connect with others. We also review the current state of academic binge watching research—from motives and habituation to the (over-pathologizing) addiction-based studies. This text concludes with a synopsis of the central arguments made and identifies several areas for future research.

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Chapter Two: A Historical Perspective: The Evolution of Television Viewing and Audience Research

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CHAPTER TWO

A Historical Perspective: The Evolution of Television Viewing and Audience Research

← 21 | 22 →

This chapter follows the evolution of television technology and research on television audiences, as they relate to binge watching and the current media landscape, from the late 1940s through modern day. The emphasis of this chapter explores how audiences view and select television content, with a later emphasis on timeshifting behaviors and the technologies that enabled them, which eventually led to more viewers ultimately having more control over their viewing options. Much of the early television research is descriptive and does not engage in hypothesis testing or apply social scientific theories. It should be noted that some early research does rely on either sociological or psychological theories, but in most cases the researchers are arguing that these types of theories can be applied to the study of television viewing. There is a pattern to the focus on new communication technology research. Initially, or in first-generation research, the focus in on how many units (of the new communication technology) were sold, who bought them, and how the new communication technologies were being used (Dobrow, 1990). These are all descriptive questions. In second-generation research, there is a shift to examine use patterns and the effects of using the communication technology. Dobrow (1990) discusses the third and final generation of research is placing the communication technology in the larger social/cultural context, once it has reached saturation and existed...

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