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Ofcom’s annual survey on Great British media habits this month revealed that binge-watching is on the up. The report found that almost 10 million Brits skip sleep or say they’re tired due to binge-watching.
Eight in ten adults in the UK – 40m people – say they use catch-up technology such as BBC iPlayer or subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime to watch more than one episode of a programme at a time, with 35% watching several episodes of a show once a week (Guardian). The most popular ‘binging’ television shows, it found, are Orange Is The New Black, Stranger Things and Game of Thrones.
The rising popularity of consuming television in this way heavily leans towards the younger generation; a third of the UK population ‘binge’ at least once a week but that rises to 62% of 16-24 year olds (Guardian).
The era of the television binge has been aided by the increasing number of devices available, accompanied by improving internet speeds and the growth of on-demand streaming services. Brands are also getting on board, including Disney, which this month revealed plans to remove all content from Netflix and create its own global streaming video on demand platform.
More and more television suppliers are also beginning to release complete box sets on demand rather than just showing live episodes. These include Amazon’s live-action version of the cartoon series The Tick, as well as Sky’s Guerrilla with Idris Elba and The Night Of featuring Riz Ahmed. The latter saw 67% of viewers watch the series ahead of schedule and before the final transmission of the last episode (Olive).
Releasing content all in one go seems more of a feasible option for brand new shows or those that have arrived from across the Atlantic, in order to gain and establish a solid fan base. Once the series is established, producers should stick to the weekly format in order to allow a series to build, allowing for a longer media cycle and aiding fan discussions, whether online or by the kettle.
Even though the power may no longer be dictated by the television schedule and, though sole television binging is increasing, 58% of people still prefer to watch big national events live instead of on-demand (Guardian) and 86% of television is still watched live (Thinkbox).
There is a place for on-demand, as is there a place for live TV in consumers’ lives. The idea of “Box Set Britain” will always be thwarted, if only by social media, with many live shows working alongside Twitter conversations (#GBBO #Muggy #WinterIsHere). There’s also the draw of bringing families together in a common experience, especially with live events such as sporting events and reality television contests. This is one hangover that is not here to stay – unlike mine from the last bank holiday.