I was listening to “Marketplace” on NPR the other day when a reporter there spoke to Brian Lowry, the TV critic for Variety, and Mary McNamara, who watches TV for the Los Angeles Times as they discussed what a pain it is to watch TV for a living because now, there’s just so much of it.
The conversation drifted naturally to time management, and since bingeing is now the thing, it was interesting to hear McNamara say: “I can only watch four hours without a break. You get this special headache. I mean there are different headaches: you get the headache from scripted drama and the documentary, but the worst headache is the one if there’s a news event, and you have to watch continuously — There’s a headache I can’t even describe.”
As a former TV critic, I can relate, which is also why I can’t relate to binge viewing just for the fun of it. It's hard work.
But as YuMe, the multi-screen ad tech company points out in new research, just under half of the 522 viewers responding to a survey said they binge-watch “streamed data” at least once a week, 41% binge one to three times a week and 16% binge daily. Daily!
In fact, this collection of percentage signs does seem to be a pretty good indicator of what online video watching is really mostly all about: Watching TV, or prepping for it. The YuMe study says 30% “often” find themselves looking for TV shows they first got a whiff of online, and 56% agreed they go online to discover new TV shows to watch; 52% say watching online videos makes their TV experience better, and 22% think the best way to spend time watching on a smartphone or tablet is by viewing TV highlights. At least 42% went online to seek out information about a TV show.
This study was taken in the spring, around the time the new TV season is announced, and 23% reported binge watching streamed TV "in the past week in anticipation for a new season coming to TV," and 47% agree they're likely to binge-watch previous seasons of some shows before the new season begins.
Online is a super drug mart for the TV-addicted. So, no wonder television executives are really, really wondering if selling rights to TV shows to Netflix or other sites they don’t get a cut from, is such a good idea. The whole TV experience, from hype to ennui but minus the ads, has now shifted online.
A pretty good thought piece from Nielsen’s Steve Hasker and Glenn Enoch points out content producers (often owned by the networks) make $3-$4 billion in revenue a year from selling network program rights to on-demand services like Netflix and Amazon. But, they say, cable and satellite companies have 100 million people paying $80 a month on average, of which the big broadcast and cable landowners get around half. Add in the advertising, that comes out to $100 billion a year.
So as much as people like TV that is once-removed-from TV, why do it?
Because the content makers are afraid to stop, I’d say. YuMe sums it up like this: “Study results prove that digital media users are directly affected by television content and tailor their usage based on their anticipated and actual viewing habits. Consumers plan their digital streaming in advance, with foresight into times when they will be watching for long periods (binge-watching). In addition, consumers' TV viewing and digital mobile activities have a mutual relationship and impact on time spent on either activity.”I think I’m getting a headache.