Panel: Bingeing Losing Its Cool

New York – Binge watching, a buzzword just a few years ago and one of the catalysts of subscription video on demand in its infancy, is starting lose its cachet according to a panel of top media executives at a Paley Center for Media event here Thursday.

While bingeing on entire seasons of shows in one sitting isn’t going away entirely, it no longer appears to be the badge of honor that it once was, Discovery Communications’ Group President Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and Science Channel Rich Ross said at the Paley Center for Media’s 2015 Paley International Council Summit here Thursday.

“About six months ago, you stopped hearing about it that way and there was a return to this obsession and fascination with watching something and being able to talk about it the next day,” Ross said. “To me it is what is fueling a lot of my ratings, where I realize it matters to them that it was on Wednesday night. And it did not have to be an event like Shark Week, it could be an episode of Alaska Bush People.”     

United Talent Agency co-founder, partner and director Peter Benedeck said that is good news for content developers. He added that shows like HBO’s Game of Thrones are a prime example of what the industry used to call “water cooler” programming, or shows that viewers like to talk about around the office water cooler on Monday morning and speculate what may happen next week.

Benedeck said shows that are set up to be binge-viewed don’t have that advantage, and he pointed to one series his agency has been involved in, The Crown, slated to debut on Netflix next year.

“The point is that on a given day, 10 hours of that show will be dropped on Netflix and three days later the buzz will be gone,” Benedeck said. “On a Monday morning I walk into a staff meeting at my company and people want to talk about what happened on The Affair, they want to talk about what happened in that episode and wonder what might happen next week. Shows that by definition are going to be binge-watched don’t get the opportunity for people to feel about them that way. Orange is the New Black was Orange is the New Black for about a week. And then Orange is the New Black was moving on. And that’s too bad.”

He added that is why sports seem to do so well for networks; they can’t be binged.

“Imagine if the Pittsburgh Steelers played all their games on tape and you could watch the whole season in one sitting?” Benedeck asked.

Ross added that some shows are already becoming appointment television for some viewers and with the proliferation of original content, that can only get bigger.

“There are three hours of Shonda Rhimes shows on Thursday night that everybody knows are on Thursday night,” Ross said. “If you watch all the seasons of shows at once, then you go back to, ‘Oh, there’s nothing’s on.’ That’s part of the dilemma that marathon or binge programmers have.”