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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 Four: A Social Perspective: Family Viewing, Co-Viewing, and Social TV


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A Social Perspective: Family Viewing, Co-Viewing, and Content Curation

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Binge watching presents a critical and consequential difference in viewing from the currently accepted assumptions under the existing methodological and theoretical framework employed in the academic study of media effects. This chapter explores macro-level phenomenon that are shaping these changing assumptions about television viewing. An exploration of the literature on situational determinants of television viewing, group viewing, and the crucial role of family in the broader picture of television in society is presented. The chapter then documents two relatively new television-related media behaviors that capitalize on old habits and interests: Social TV and Media Multitasking, or “second-screening.” What we know and what we speculate about these phenomenon and binge watching are discussed throughout. As we discussed in Chapter 2, television has long been a shared activity with families, friends, and even fellow fans. This remains true as television continues to be the most common leisure activity in the United States (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015). Family viewing of television has been promoted since the early days of television and was embraced by the broadcast industry as seen in the promotion of content during “family hour.” This chapter examines changes in viewing behaviors and discusses how changes in the original viewing unit – the family – have impacted current research on television viewing. Special attention is also paid to the role of coviewing over time and how technological changes...

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