Binge Watching

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Binge watching , also called binge-viewing or marathon watching is the act of watching multiple episodes of a television show, movies in a series, serialized YouTube videos, or any sequence of video media en masse, usually through digital streaming or DVDs in one sitting. Researchers have argued that binge-watching should be defined based on the medium and context of the show being watched. Binge watching has been an increasingly popular phenomenon since the launch of Netflix. Netflix is a video streaming service that charges a monthly fee and is often used for binging television shows.The term was popularized in 2013 following a decision by Netflix to release entire seasons of television programs rather than releasing episodes individually. Ethical issues such as privacy, net neutrality, and addiction that arise from video streaming services are further exasperated by the activity of binge watching.



The term binge watching first appeared in the late 1990s and can likely be attributed to box sets of television programs. Usage was not popularized until the creation of on demand viewing services and online streaming sites in 2013 [1]. Companies such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime allowed users to watch entire seasons of programs at their leisure by publishing full seasons of television shows, both from popular networks as well as original content. Netflix has offered online streaming since 2007, winning Emmy nominations and awards for its own original shows released in 2013. It has been a worldwide service since 2016 [2]. Hulu launched as a streaming service in 2008 and has also created its own original shows, one of which has been nominated for a Golden Globe [3]. Amazon Video began as Amazon Unbox on TiVo, a service to download videos onto a TiVo [4]. The video service was rebranded as Amazon on Demand, then as Amazon Instant Video in 2011, free to Amazon Prime users and poised to take on Netflix and Hulu [5]. More recently, television networks have begun following this model as well, posting entire seasons of shows on their online platforms. For example, the network Freeform put their entire 10 episode season of the show "Beyond" online and were ready to approve a second season within eight days [6].

Common Binge Watching Platforms

Youtube Binge Watching

In 2016 a survey done by Comscore and Youtube, utilizing 2,940 people, showcased the opinions of the 18-34 versus the 35+ demographic in terms of Youtube binge-watching. This survey goes into details about how much Youtube viewing is preferred over traditional TV viewing. The survey ages 18-34 and 35+ asked the people how much they binge watch Youtube in 4 separate categories of daily, weekly, monthly(or less), or never. 37% of 18-34 reported binge-watching Youtube daily and 28% reported weekly.[7] The 35+ age group reported with 14% and 23% respectively to both of those categories. 32% reported binge watching monthly or less in the 18-34 age group, and 48% reported in the 35+ age group. Only 4% of the 18-34 age group reported never binge watching Youtube, while the 35+ reported 15%.

Netflix Binge Watching

In a 2014 Netflix study, 61% of people said that they regularly binge watch, with 73% of people defining binge watching as watching 2-6 episodes of the same television show in one sitting [8]. The Atlantic crowd sourced to define binge watching and concluded that watching 4 or more episodes in one sitting is a more appropriate definition, claiming that 2 episodes were too few to describe as a "binge" [9]. One person watched 120 episodes in 4 weeks, which comes to just over 4 episodes per day, while another watched 29 episodes in 2 weeks, or 3.5 episodes per day [10]. New studies have shown that Netflix members would much rather watch an entire series in one sitting versus taking their time. Viewers even reported positive feelings associated with binge-watching and leaving a series with a high.

Hulu Binge Watching

Hulu, similar to Netflix, is another very prominent TV and movie streaming service that many users can be found binge watching on. Hulu released some of their data regarding the amount of time watched on their platform and it can be seen that of their 20 plus million world wide subscribers, there was 26 million hours of TV/movies being streamed every day [11]. The company also released a statistic about the most watched show on the platform, being "This is Us" with over 2 million seperate "binge sessions" (meaning 5+ hours in one sitting) [12].

Twitch Binge Watching

Twitch is a relatively new platform and concept that greatly promotes countless hours of watching a binging media content. Twitch is a streaming platform, focused primarily on streaming video games (but also streams things such as podcasts and "IRL Streams"). On average, Twitch will host approximately 2.2 million different streamers, and over 15 million viewers daily. At any given time throughout the day, there are approximately 1.1 million people watching a stream on Twitch and most users spend 2 + hours on the platform per day [13]


Netflix Binge Pairings
Most people see binge watching as something done by millennials. Though binge watching is more prevalent in ages 18-34, it is consistent across generations.[14]. While watching a few episodes might constitute binge watching, many people will watch an entire series in one or a few sittings. It is then common practice to take a "breather," a break of at least a day, between shows. The average break size is 3 days. In this break, many people will turn to movies to continue watching something without starting a new show, with these movies often staying within the genre of the show they just finished [15]. Netflix also says that users who finish the first season of a show typically finish that season within a week, needing to watch about two hours a day to do so. The median amount of time to finish any season of a show is four days, demonstrating how quickly the binge watching phenomenon has caught on. The most common shows that are binge watched this quickly fall into the categories of horror, thrillers, or sci-fi. People who watch political dramas, irreverent comedies, or historical dramas are more likely to take it slower, finishing a season within six days[16].

Ethical Implications

Due to the rise of other streaming services, such as Hulu, Amazon Video, WATCH Disney Channel, HBOgo and other streaming options, the concept of binge-watching has grown. Streaming services connected to a TV channel, such as ABC, NBC, and Disney Channel, often upload new episodes the day after they are aired and let the episodes accumulate until an entire season is available to watch. Additionally, Netflix's creation of its own originals has increased anticipation as they do not follow the usual format of a new episode per week during a seasonal block (usually winter or fall). Instead, Netflix releases an entire season once a year, so the behavior of binge-watching is fostered. Additionally, Netflix has no commercial breaks and apps like WATCH ABC or Watch Disney Channel, play commercials ranging from 30 seconds to 1 minute. It is faster to watch episodes on these services because an hour-long episode on TV is approximately forty minutes and a half hour episode is only about twenty-three minutes. The lack of commercials help the viewer stay engaged for longer periods of time and keeps their curiosity intact; therefore, encouraging binge watching. On Netflix, as a viewer gets deeper into the season, it gives the option to "Skip Intro", which cuts out the theme song and the recap, making it faster to get to the episode. Lastly, all of these services employ the automatic play tactic where the next episode plays in five seconds unless the user specifies.


Sharing account information is the act of one user who pays for a subscription to a streaming service providing login credentials, and therefore access, to non-subscribers of the service. This activity makes it possible for more people to engage in binge-watching. Many of these online streaming sites, like Netflix, state in their terms of service that account owners should not share their account information with anyone else, though their interface promotes sharing by allowing users to create multiple profiles on a single account. Users can also share their account password so anyone can watch. Therefore, when people share passwords for these online streaming sites, it allows multiple people to use one account and watch as much as they want. In order to prevent mass viewing of content on a single account, however, these companies often restrict the number of streams allowed on one account at a single time. Sharing passwords raise ethical concerns, like the invasion of privacy, as anyone with the account password would view everything that each profile on the account has been watching. Furthermore, in July 2016, the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that deemed sharing passwords a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This affects sharers of passwords on these online streaming sites. There has been no indication that companies like Netflix and HBO Go will prosecute users who share passwords [17].

Net Neutrality

Net neutrality is the concept of all data on the Internet being treated equally, regardless of where it comes from. In recent years, companies such as Comcast and Time Warner have been challenging that notion. They have proposed the idea of slowing down Internet speeds and making companies pay a fee for their services to be streamed at a faster speed.[18] This makes it more difficult for startups or smaller companies to be able to break into the streaming service industry. Giants like Netflix and Hulu are able to pay the fee due to their sizes and revenues. Many larger companies, like Facebook and Google, support net neutrality. [19] They argue that the loss of net neutrality would make information no longer free. The removal of net neutrality would limit binge watching television shows to only the largest of streaming providers. Netflix has come out in strong support of net neutrality rules and argues that they are important for smaller companies and firms. The company also acknowledges that if these rules were to be repealed, it would have a limited effect on Netflix because the service is immensely popular and the company can maintain its relationship with internet service providers. The election of Donald Trump as President also poses questions about the future of net neutrality in the United States. Many Republicans in the FCC are opposed to the current net neutrality regulations and are seeking opportunities to end them. Any significant changes in net neutrality rules could result in a significant impact on services like Netflix, HBO and Hulu.

Effects on Well-Being

Binge watching is a distraction that can degrade relationships, obligations, work, all of which contributes to an individual's personal life and well-being. In a study conducted by the Psychology Department at Ursinus College, 63% of undergraduate respondents identified binge-watching as an academic obstacle, which would be difficult for them to recognize if not directly asked. [20] These features have the potential to impact the mental health of viewers. Although only limited research has been done, many binge-watchers report feeling depressed, anxious, or stressed after binge watching.[21] Binge watching has also caused people to express feelings of isolation and loneliness in that because the behavior is often addictive, it can cause social isolation to occur. Binge watching has not yet been classified as an addictive behavior, but studies have shown that those who partake in binge watching have trouble self-regulating their viewing behavior.[21] While binge watching can reduce feelings of anxiety and stress, studies also show that binge watching for this purpose can also lead to an increased risk of developing insomnia.[22] This neglect of individual well-being can also affect one's weight and is a potential factor attributable to obesity. [23] While this is not directly a fault of the companies providing binge watching opportunities, this is a potentially negative societal consequence.

Additional effects of binge watching may stem from excessive exposure to computer screens. Computer Vision Syndrome, also referred to as Digital Eye Strain, is a term used to describe the use of various vision-related problems resulting from prolonged exposure to digital displays such as those on computers, phones, and tablets. Symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome include eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes. Individuals that binge watch are more prone to develop these symptoms as they are inherently more exposed to computer screens by doing so.[24][25]


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