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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 Seven: Conclusion: Where Do We Go From Here?


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Conclusion: Where Do We Go From Here?

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This text has attempted to situate binge watching in the larger context of today’s media landscape. It began with an introduction to the concept, including defining the often-debated term as long periods of focused, deliberate viewing of sequential television content that is generally narrative, suspenseful, and dramatic in nature. We introduced three central arguments we hoped the following chapters would illustrate as accurate (or, at least reasonable). The second chapter starts at the early television days in the United States and reviews how television fundamentally shifted individuals’ leisure time and time spent with family. It explored early audience research, and the introduction of the VCR, which afforded timeshifting, a crucial first step moving toward increased viewer choice and agency. Next, Chapter 3 reviewed the industry competitors related to television viewing and binge watching today, the content we are binge watching, and how those industry players are replacing traditional television programming strategies with data-driven algorithms and using technology to their advantage in managing audience flow. Chapter 4 explored situational determinants of television viewing, media multitasking and second screening, and the many iterations of social television viewing. It revealed how the technologies used, the physical locations where we watch, and with whom we view has evolved, but the social nature of television viewing is a long-standing practice. Chapters 5 and 6 tackle the recent academic investigations of binge watching and the...

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