'Streaming' Is Just A Better Way Of Saying 'Watching TV'

Behold the genius of the word “streaming.”

Basically, this soft, soothing word has come to be applied to a behavior that is most often neither of those two things -- namely, watching TV (on whatever platform you choose), and sometimes for hours on end.

Once upon a time, that kind of binge-watching behavior was derided and discouraged. But not anymore.

Most notably, parents decried the amount of time their children were spending in front of the boob tube (another great phrase no longer in common use) in lieu of doing homework or undertaking physical activities such as playing outside.

Today, when we binge-watch a streaming TV series that we have heard good things about, we do not think of ourselves as uselessly vegetating in front of a video screen.



In days gone by, however, this kind of vegetative state was so frowned upon that those who did it earned a vegetable-related nickname that was decidedly unflattering: Couch potatoes. 

On the very face of it, “binge-watching” would appear to have negative connotations. As most people realize, bingeing is not advisable in so many other categories of behavior.

For example, bingeing on alcohol, drugs or food (to cite three bingeable activities) has been known to lead to a number of negative consequences. 

But not bingeing on television content, apparently. Instead, TV’s marketers and promoters position their many streaming series as “binge-worthy,” which is seen and accepted as a positive attribute.

Bloggers and other opinion writers and journalists on the TV beat use the same phrase when recommending a TV show to watch.

In doing so, they are encouraging their readers to sit still for as many as 10-plus hours (and sometimes many more) to watch video content on their phones, laptops, tablets or big-screen televisions. 

If “bingeing” in this way can be presented as a constructive, positive behavior, then why not “streaming” as a means of describing basically the same thing? In fact, “streaming” is an even better word than “bingeing.” 

“Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream,” sang The Beatles so long ago (“Tomorrow Never Knows,” 1966).

Turning off one’s mind is certainly one behavior that many people undertake when they take up the activity of consuming television content. That makes perfect sense.

On the other hand, a sense of floating downstream is not generally a feeling one associates with television in any form.

With all of the scripted violence, partisan arguing on the news-channel talk shows, and the “if it bleeds, it leads” local newscasts, “relaxing” is also not a word many people would use to describe TV.

And yet, someone thought of applying the word “streaming” to the act of watching television content and the public has accepted it. We are not just “watching TV” -- we are “streaming.” And doesn’t that sound better?

Photo courtesy of National Geographic from the limited series “Barkskins.”


4 comments about "'Streaming' Is Just A Better Way Of Saying 'Watching TV'".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 10, 2020 at 1:59 p.m.

    Adam, I wonder how much time the average person spends "binge watching" TV shows---that's watching three or more episodes of a TV series non-stop, folks? Is this an everyday practice for most adults? Are there enough worthwhile shows available to cause so many people to focus  on them in a concentrated fashion and "binge watch"? Or is "binge watching" mostly a once in a while activity ---mainly when an "original" series appears and is heavily promoted, causing old and new subscribers to a SVOD service to take the time to watch a batch of episodes all in a single sitting?I suspect that an objective time spent analysis would reveal that "binge watching"---including reruns of old shows as well as highly touted newbies---probably accounts for 2-3% of all TV viewing time---SVOD included. Which raises another qiestion. Is "binge watching" via streaming a better way of "watching TV" or, as the title of this piece says, is it a "better" way to simply say that you are "watching TV"? 

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, September 10, 2020 at 2:55 p.m.

    I read the other day that the percentage of people who look first at the streaming channels and afterward resort to linear TV has surpassed 50 percent. That suggests a tipping point. Binge-watching is the norm at my house, where no adult is under 63. My wife is streaming Lucifer as I type this. A couple of weeks ago it was The Rain, from Denmark. And then Rita, also from Denmark. Both on Netflix. Addicting viewing without the guilt. Yes, we still watch network TV, as an afterthought. But we prefer Netflix without those pesky commercials.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 10, 2020 at 4:05 p.m.

    Douglas, the kind of survey you are referring to generally causes respondents to think of entertainment shows---primetime shows, mostly---but not necessarily most TV programs when they give their impressionistic answers. And, it may be true where the broadcast TV networks are concerned. But the average person only devotes about 8% of his/her total viewing time to such content---which is down considerably from twenty years ago. So I ask were do you go first if you want national or local news----to streaming? And where do you go first if you want to watch your favorite team play? What about a game show around 6-7PM? Or a daytime talk show---if you are in the mood?Or one of those sometimes interesting and informative syndicated small claims court shows? Or a military documentary?

    The problem with many of the surveys you described is that they don't lay it out for their respondents in a more detailed and  fair way---so, of course, SVOD usually does very well. But if SVOD is the default choice for half of the population, why is it that "streaming" ----as defined by Nielsen---including YouTube and videogames---accounts for only 19-20% of all viewing? Shouldn't that figure be a lot higher?

  4. John Grono from GAP Research, September 10, 2020 at 7:02 p.m.

    There is another perspective to the word 'streaming'.

    I happen to live in a regional area that is notorious for 'dodgy' internet connections and speed,   There is nothing more annoying than the screen freezing because "the stream" has slowed to a trickle and the content has to buffer.

    I find it much more annoying than ads because you have to wait for the buffer to fill - and you have no idea how long that will take.   At least with ads you can channel hop or know that the programme will resume in a few minutes so you can make a cuppa!

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