Binge-watching TV

2014-05-04 15:00

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Ever more people are consuming a TV series all at once thanks to technology that allows the shows to be downloaded in one go, writes Percy Mabandu

TV is experiencing a golden age. Not the box, the content produced for it.

There’s a global upsurge in viewers that has been fuelled by ­naggingly addictive reality shows and an ­explosion of high-quality drama series. Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Mad Men, The Wire – and on and on, depending on your tastes.

The technological revolution has been a friend of the creative outpouring from TV producers. If the US is the marker, then part of the story is that TV has a creative edge right now.

TV content is driven and owned by writers, and film is owned by ­corporates. With more interesting roles, bigger and bigger star names opted for TV over film. A Hollywood star today does both.

This golden age has unleashed a new way of consuming TV. It’s called binge-watching: watching your favourite TV show for as long as you want – not as long as a broadcaster wants you to. But often longer than what’s good for you.

You can catch up on your preferred action by online streaming, personal ­video recorder or even DVD.

David ­Simon, the brains ­behind The Wire and Breaking Bad, once remarked: “Forget the series talk, we are making 60-hour-long movies.”

Of course, a decent binge means taking time off from life. A single season is often eight to 13 episodes long. There’s no longer a fixed format for a debut show. If it’s working, producers extend the shoot and bag as many ­episodes as possible before season two.

Those who binge will recognise the downside of the download: people arrive at work fatigued, baggy-eyed and droopy from a lack of sleep. House chores and relationships no longer receive the attention they did.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ­reports 61% of people who stream their programmes online are binge-watching.

It points out the financial side effects. Consider that a 13-episode season of a single series can eat up to 40 gigs of ­data per month. If a binge-watcher is not on an ­uncapped data package, we can assume they could be spending about R200 per gig – that’s R8?000 for a season. Of course, file-sharing means that’s just a few hundred bucks.

Netflix and Google TV, though, seem to be growing in popularity among more youthful users.

Then, of course, there are technological ­advances that have turned home TV sets into sophisticated audiovisual marvels. They sport everything from interactive touch screen ­capabilities to internet connectivity.

They’re a far cry from gran’s monochromatic TV set that was only turned on for the evening news and the weekly drama series.

Our generation of TV viewers watches its favourite programme with an attachment akin to a drug addiction. It’s no wonder an increasing amount of people are staying home to watch their idiot boxes instead of going out.

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