When to Binge? Content Providers, Studios Are Changing Their Thinking

Make no long deals. That would seem to be a good rule for content platforms and content makers, as viewer patterns continue to change so rapidly that what’s savvy today seems pretty short-sighted tomorrow. But even being short-sighted today seems pretty ahead-of-the-curve. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king and all that.

 The researchers TDG  note “In 2011 net-connected TV viewers watched, on average, just over three hours of online video per week; today this group spends almost 15 hours a week watching online video on their TV screens.  Broadcast viewing, once the default, now accounts for only 43% of weekly TV watching time, down from 59% in 2012. Even the television platform itself has slipped from its viewing monopoly, as today only 60% of total video viewing time is spent in front of the TV, down from 74% last year.”

If there have been those kinds of changes in how consumers use and perceive media, you can bet there have been equally jarring changes in how content creators and distributors do.



Once, for example content creators—studios and networks—were satisfied, if, after the first run, programs were sold in syndication or packaged for DVDs. Now, increasingly, producers want recent first-run programs to be available quickly online or on VOD to consumers so they don’t have to wait for months to catch up.    

“Networks are increasingly pushing to offer all episodes of a current season, what’s known as ‘in-season stacking rights,’ on demand via VOD, online and the network’s mobile applications,” reports

The emerging mode among viewers is to let some new programming slip by. They’ll catch up if the buzz warrants it, and that’s a totally wise strategy in a content-rich universe filled with continuing episodes. And of course, it’s the reason that Nielsen’s “Live plus seven” has become such a meaningful measure. It’s the way we live now.

Extend that and you see—there’s an audience for nearly-new programs that networks are eager to satisfy, and not just because advertisers want it.  Programmers also know that getting an audience to experience a show before the paint is totally dry holds out the opportunity they’ll eventually start watching closer to the time the content is originally presented. But that’s a jarring change from what content-makers once wanted—when the space between the original run and its syndication or repackaging was measured out for a reason. Once the second consumers of content were largely the viewers who wanted to see a show again. Now, it's for viewers who never saw it in the first place.

And now, it appears, Netflix--home of the binge viewer--is threatening to lower its license fees to programs that provide enough in-season stacked shows to damage Netflix’s ability to woo the bingers viewers a few months later. Timing is everything. This binge stuff is tricky.

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