“Binge watching” a TV show is a relatively new phenomenon. Prior to a few years ago, the only ways to view a long string of episodes in a row involved having a set of DVDs (going further back, VHS tapes) or tuning in to a show marathon on a broadcast or cable TV channel.

But with the rise of Video on Demand platforms, as well as over-the-top (OTT) services from Netflix, Amazon and others, binge watching has become a lot easier for consumers everywhere. The complete back catalogs of hundreds of TV series are already available on-demand from Netflix, while platforms such as Hulu usually offer complete episodes the day after they air.

How big of a deal is binge watching?
It is now possible to power through multiple seasons of old shows like “Miami Vice” or “Daria” in a matter of days with nothing more than an Internet connection and a PC, smartphone or tablet. That is a big break from the viewing norms of the past, and it is no surprise that people have taken advantage of the new opportunities:

  • According to a 2015 survey conducted by TiVo, 92 percent of respondents liked to binge watch TV shows. TiVo defined “binge watching” as watching three or more episodes of the same show in a single day. Netflix was the most popular enabler of binge watching; 66 percent of TiVo’s subjects reported using it.
  • The word “binge” has traditionally had a somewhat negative connotation because of its association with overindulging in food and drink; however, only 30 percent of TiVo’s survey-takers reported that they now frowned upon the term. That number is down from nearly 50 percent two years before.
  • About one-third (32 percent) of the TiVo respondents said they avoided watching any episodes of a show until a full season or the entire show was available on-demand. Binge watching is not just catch-up viewing, but it’s also a whole new mode of video consumption.

The key drivers for the growth of binge watching go beyond the simple spread of Internet connectivity, OTT and VOD platforms. Original programming – everything from Amazon’s “Mozart in the Jungle” to Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” – and premium cable shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Better Call Saul” have been built to take advantage of the growing number of binge TV watchers.

“TV shows are increasingly designed to hook binge watchers early.”

For example, the Netflix original series “House of Cards” was able to get its viewers “hooked” after only three episodes (for comparison, network TV mainstay “How I Met Your Mother” took eight episodes to do so). Netflix itself defined “hooked” as the episode after which 70 percent of viewers went on to finish the rest of the season. There is more incentive than ever for creators of TV programming to add cliffhangers, deep conflicts or complex plots early on, so that viewers keep coming back for more.

“Binge viewing is affecting TV culture, and business, in several unexpected ways,” wrote Kat Ascharya for 2machines. “Due to the intense marathon nature of TV-binging, shows with particularly complex storylines like “Lost” are finding a second life, as fans new and old continue to watch it well after it’s been taken off the air. In addition, obscure shows, often from overseas, are resonating with U.S. audiences.”

What should cable operators do to capitalize on the surge in binge watching?
Entertaining binge TV watchers requires cable operators to do three things exceptionally well:

  • Provide reliable connectivity, i.e. via a broadband Internet subscription.
  • Offer a broad range of programming options (like VOD) that supplement traditional linear TV packages.
  • Ensure that VOD platforms have intuitive user interfaces that support a variety of device types, not just TVs.

Small and medium-sized cable companies in particular are at a crossroads as binge watching takes off. They are competing with the likes of Netflix and Amazon for viewers, while at the same time providing the connectivity that allows subscribers to watch Netflix, Hulu, etc. for hours at a time.

OTT services have made it a lot easier to binge watch shows.

OTT services have made it a lot easier to binge watch shows.

One viable way forward is to embrace OTT viewing habits and also strengthen their existing programming packages. This balancing act can be achieved using a hybrid set-top box such as the IP Hybrid STB from Evolution Digital, which features both a standard QAM tuner and an IP port. The IP Hybrid STB allows cable operators to integrate OTT services and provides consumers with a universal search capability across linear cable and OTT programming.

In addition, when paired with a VOD platform like eVUE-TV™ it supports linear and Video on Demand programs that can capture and sustain the interest of binge watchers. The eVUE-TV platform, itself, offers thousands of hours of top-rated VOD content including new release movies, leading cable network programs and shows from premium networks like HBO and Showtime, so viewers can binge watch their favorite movies and TV shows without even having to change the HDMI input to an OTT service like Netflix or Hulu.

Rapid subscriber growth to OTT platforms, along with the rise of binge watching and original content from outside the traditional network/cable TV channel sector, means that cable operators will have to adjust to a new market in the years ahead. New STBs and VOD solutions provide a solid foundation for such a transition.

Want to offer your clients binge worthy content?

eVUE-TV™ is Evolution Digital’s easy solution to integrate IP VOD and video content to your cable system.

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