Then vs. Now: The Binge

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Perhaps in the last few decades the word binge was used to refer to the copious amount of food consumed on Christmas day or a few too many down the pub, but it certainly wasn’t used for the snack fueled, pyjama state of binge-watching a TV series. With the introduction of streaming sites like Netflix, along came the phenomenon of ‘binge-watching’ and Collins Dictionary even dubbed “binge-watch” as the 2015 word of the year. Yet there has been a flurry of scientific studies showing that binge-watching is changing the way we watch TV, so is film following in TV’s footsteps?

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The science

Video may have killed the radio star but did streaming kill TV?

According to research from the University of Melbourne, binge-watching a show significantly decreased the enjoyment participants got from the experience in comparison to watching an episode once a week as in pre-streaming times. Moreover, those who binge-watched the shows were significantly less likely to remember the content than those who spread it out.

But it’s not just your enjoyment that could be at risk. A study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that those who identified as binge-watchers reported more fatigue, insomnia symptoms and poorer sleep quality. Some viewers have even begun to report feeling “anxious, wistful, bereft” after finishing binge-watching a series.

So is film going in the same direction?

Streaming sites aren’t just monopolising the TV industry, but also the film industry. With some of the most famous film series such as Lord of the Rings being available to binge on Netflix all in one go, the same trend may be applicable to their viewer engagement. Furthermore, some films are bypassing the cinemas completely and heading straight for the streaming sites such as Annihilation (2018) and some of the most talked-about films this year were Netflix originals that were debuted on the site rather than in the cinemas. If this trend continues then the excitement and social experience of the cinema may soon become obsolete.

Maybe binge-watching is the future, maybe it’s a phase, but with eight out of ten of us identifying as binge-watchers it doesn’t look like the trend is going to slow down anytime soon. But what do you think? Are you a binge-watcher or a die-hard once-a-weeker?