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Binge-Viewing and The World of Tomorrow

27/06/2014 11:38 BST | Updated 26/08/2014 10:59 BST

A Dirty Truth

I'll let you in on a secret: your neighbours are binge-viewers, and chances are, you are too.

"Binge-viewing" is the new term for watching multiple episodes of a TV series--or even the entire series--in a single sitting. This includes movie marathons. This includes that time you invited some friends over to "see what the fuss is about," and you watched... the whole... thing. Sound familiar?

Don't worry. You're not alone. Globally, 80% of people are bingers. It's becoming part of our DNA. And it's allowing us to consume more video than ever, in less time.

Why You Care

Here's why that's important: if we keep going down this path--if we keep binge-viewing our content--we'll be changing the entire paradigm for entertainment.

Think about it. You used to wait around for your favourite show to come on the television. You'd rush home from class and work and boring dates; sit through ads; and time your breaks and meals and family gatherings to catch your show. Now, at the end of each episode, you insert the next disc, click on to the next season, or maybe you just sit back and it automatically plays.

Maybe you don't do any of those things, but not for much longer...

Binge-viewing is the tip of the iceberg for a much larger trend: we are learning to watch entertainment on our terms. We expect to have our content, our way.

We no longer revolve around entertainment. Entertainment is evolving around us. And that shift is driven by binge-viewing, multiscreening, time-shifting, content streaming, DVRing, and the like.

Proof and Cause

What's causing this change in the way we consume entertainment?

It's a confluence of factors, but its enablers include the high availability of broadband, the explosion of mobile devices, and the increasing accessibility of content.

These conditions have facilitated the growth of new services like iPlayer, Netflix, nDVR, catch-up and on-demand video, and more. ARRIS's recent Consumer Entertainment Index suggests an even larger, positive feedback loop whereby these services are driving our new habits, and we in turn are encouraging their personalization and progression.

Cultural anthropologist and MIT research affiliate Grant McCracken proffers that we binge-view "to craft time and space... enter a world that is, for all its narrative complexity, a place of sudden continuity... The second screen in some ways becomes our second home."

Perhaps it is both, and we at once are motivated and empowered to watch what we want as we wish.

What's Next?

We're not slowing down. We'll consume more content, and it'll become easier and easier to find and enjoy--when, where, and how we want it.

Already, we're seeing this behaviour impact one of the most fundamental assets of traditional entertainment: advertising.

According to ARRIS's study, 40% of us record content to skip over the ads. That would portend an unfortunate fate for advertising if it weren't for one astonishing finding: that over a third of us are using second-screen devices to purchase products featured on the programs we watch. This not only underscores an untapped opportunity for advertisers, media properties, and service providers--it represents a fundamental shift in how we're incentivised to spend money, and consequently it has tremendous implications for monetising entertainment.

This is just one example of how our behaviour is transforming the entertainment paradigm. Seen another way, we are witnessing a major shift in how we influence entertainment, and how it influences us.

The greatest catalyst of that change is technology. Technology will bring in the next wave of entertainment. Our devices will be faster and freer, our networks more pervasive and robust. Services will be more predictive, targeted, and personalized...

... And so our content will find us. We'll transition from reactive search to proactive recommendations. Advertising will take on new forms. Our experiences will be unified, seamless, and continuous. Movies won't stop at the edge of our Wi-Fi networks. We'll consume entire seasons in a day. In fact, shows will be made for binging. And we'll enjoy them in scintillating resolution, streaming on our phones, stored in the cloud, and shared with our friends and family.

The exciting part is that it's already happening...