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What we lose when only "binge-worthy" shows make the cut 📺❌
Why is binge-watching such a flawed metric for TV success, and what alternatives do we have in the age of streaming?
Binge-watching, like binge anything, can be perilous. It’s fun to host a movie marathon or spend a cozy weekend breezing through the latest season of your favorite show, much like it’s fun to join a pub crawl or a pie-eating contest. These situations are exhilarating until you find yourself hungover from the beer, banana cream, or Bridgerton 🫖 you took in the night before. You vow you’re never doing that again until you’ve forgotten what the hangover feels like. Lather, rinse, repeat, and so on.
You feel guilty about binge-watching because, like any other binge, you know it can’t be good for you. Since streaming services began reshaping our TV viewing habits, researchers have been studying the effects of binge-watching on our health; spoiler alert: they’re not good. Studies have linked binge-watching to negative outcomes for viewers’ cardiovascular health, vision, socialization, and sleep patterns. Yikes. 😬
I point this out not to shame anyone for binge-watching, but to illustrate a broader problem. I personally do not see anything wrong binging once in a while, just as I wouldn’t shame anyone for eating five pies in one sitting. You do you. Excessive TV viewing is a “sometimes food” that can spice up our lives and allow us to participate in the cultural zeitgeist. As with all concerns about screen time, the adage “Everything in moderation, even moderation” rings true. 🍿
The problem is not so much that binge-watching is a cultural phenomenon but the idea that it should be the only way to watch TV. Late last year, Netflix retooled their metrics to prioritize hours of a show or movie viewed within 28 days of release. While this may not be the only metric they emphasize, people have taken to social media to try and game this system on behalf of their favorite media. The following tweet illustrates a popular hack:
The idea of running a show or movie in the background so your viewership will “count” is plainly absurd. It’s a waste of energy and bandwidth. It’s yet another condition that pressures people to consume the latest craze as fast as possible without any consideration for long-term growth. Our media ecosystem is increasingly hustling us through content fad after content fad until pop culture is remarkably forgettable.
In vying for supremacy, streaming services that prioritize bingeability above all have lost the plot. To save us–and themselves–these companies should consider the following:
The more people binge, the less they’ll remember. 🧠
Have you ever watched an entire season of a show in one sitting and then struggled to remember most details about the show? Binge watchers are less likely to retain memories about series than people viewing programs over a longer stretch of time, and they’re less likely to enjoy themselves as well. The less people remember about programs, the less “sticky” they’ll be. Even if a show picks up a viral following through a series launch, it can be difficult for marketers to build fandoms when viewers have shoveled every episode in and moved on to the next big thing.
Weekly “event television” creates invaluable buzz. 💬
While many fans enjoy full-season releases, weekly “event television” still has profound value in the media landscape. Certain shows, like Stranger Things, have been released with a Frankenstein approach: release several episodes at once, but segment the season into chunks to create the desired waiting period. Still, it’s no surprise that shows released weekly tend to generate longer-term buzz.
Fandoms aren’t built overnight. 🧙🏽
While some shows can become overnight crazes, fandoms are formed when communities come together to share their love of a story. By rushing target audiences through different franchises and only prioritizing the latest releases, media companies are missing out on key opportunities to engage with their most valuable fans: the ones who host watch parties, cosplay, attend themed conventions, write fan fiction, and tell the world just how much they love their favorite stories. Like many elements of culture, building meaningful, authentic relationships to fans takes time.
Binge-watching isn’t for everyone, nor should it be. 📼
As streaming services continue to refine their metrics, they’d do well to consider the many ways fandoms cultivate and ultimately come to define the popular culture of their generations. Sometimes you don’t want to shovel in a season of your favorite show. Sometimes, you just want to savor.
At Remarkist, we’re proud to have built a community, app, and ecosystem that allows fans and creators to share all sorts of fannish traditions together. While Remarkist members watch a lot of TV together, we tend to host watches at a more traditional cadence of a couple of episodes a week for both new and old shows. This throwback to the days of “event TV” have allowed members to bond, build anticipation, and dream up new creative ideas and traditions within their fandoms.
Not a Remarkist member yet? Here’s how to get started:
Step 1: Join our beta as an early adopter and grab your unique @membername. Install our app using the instructions here, and be one of the earliest to collect our KRNL token while earning rates are high. KRNLs fuel Remarkist’s fandom economy of events and collectibles.
Step 2: Join our Remarkist Clubhouse Club—Clubhouse is a separate mobile app on iPhone and Android that we use right now to meet and watch content together. You’ll need it to actually join us for our real-time events, and you’ll need to be a member of our club there to see those chat rooms.
Step 3: Join our Discord Server—this is where hundreds of Remarkists are geeking out over the shows we love 24 hours a day, and it’s where you can get the latest developments on the project.
Step 4: Check out our website at remarkist.com for a splashy birds-eye view of the biggest stuff happening in our ecosystem.
Step 5: Subscribe to future newsletters so you can stay up to date on all the exciting stuff coming to Remarkist in 2022!