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Marketplace Morning Report

Television: all binge, all the time?

Adriene Hill Jun 12, 2015
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When you cozy up on your couch this weekend for a multi-episode, multi-hour reunion with Piper Chapman and the rest of the “Orange is the New Black” characters, feel confident you are in good company … at least, in my company.

We don’t know how many other people binge watch Netflix shows; the streaming service isn’t generous with its data. It may be part of the reason other outlets are doing their own come-and-get-it experiments.

NBC recently put all the episodes of its Charlie Manson drama “Aquarius” online.

“I think what they are looking for is information,” says David Bushman, television curator at The Paley Center for Media. “I get the sense that everyone is watching — CBS, Fox, CW and so on — are all watching to see what happens.”

It seems, at least from the outside, that “Aquarius” isn’t a show that will rewrite all the rules. Bushman doesn’t think we’re headed to a world where every show is instantly binge-able from the moment of its creation. But television, and the way we watch, is changing fast.

“We have this idea that we’ll have one set of standards, and I think that’s what we’re on the verge of now, is a world that there is no single set of standards,” says Grant McCracken, an anthropologist who studies American culture, and has researched binge watching for Netflix.

He expects more and more experimentation — throw out formulas for length, storytelling convention, style, when or how often episodes are released.

“I wonder if we’re not just a few years away in television where all of that variability is built in to TV as well,” McCracken says.

Changes in what we watch and how we watch will require a change in marketing and how what we watch gets paid for. But, if content producers figure that out, television is likely to get more and more fun.

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