Binge-Viewing: A Guilty Pleasure

Binge-viewing House of Cards was an interesting, yet familiar, experience to me. When it comes to binge-viewing television shows on Netflix or HBO, I am no stranger; however, due to HOC’s intensive and immersive structure, I found myself tired, anxious, and annoyed at times. Most of the shows I like to binge-view, I have seen before or do not require as much of attention to grasp and understand what is going on. From taking notes and listening intently to characters and their conversations, at around episode four, I found myself really wanting to stop watching. Despite being tired, I did find binge-viewing this show beneficial in connecting with the characters, their story lines, and how all of the interconnecting interactions between characters gave insight into more hidden themes. Looking back on this experience, I probably would have missed or not connected important scenes from episode to episode. Despite me calling them episodes, Netflix does have the episodes listed as chapters. McCormick gives insight to how this may beneficial giving them the distinction of “chapters” rather than “episodes”. The benefits of this could be promoting and changing the connotation of binging into something more productive, giving a sense of accomplishment of finishing a chapter like in a book. Removing this negative connotation, could actually promote the binge-worthy style of production that HOC promotes.

Linking House of Cards’ addicting viewing platform and its addiction-based themes, McCormick gives insight to how HOCs is reflective of the viewers own addiction to the show as well. McCormick writes about how through the use of “surrogates”, the viewer is able to connect on a personal level with the character as not so different from themselves. The path of addiction and its repercussions are illustrated in Peter and Zoe’s lives, but can also be reflective to that of the viewer as well. Being immersed into the addiction, whether that be drugs and alcohol or information, the viewer is also addicted to continuing to view from chapter to chapter and possibly experiencing some of the same things as Peter and Zoe. For Peter and Zoe their addiction begins to define them; this raised the question for me whether or not continuing to the next chapter of the season defines the viewer. Other characters that may be considered surrogates could be Adam, who keeps coming back to Claire, or even Tom who I view is addicted to control and power.

McCormick and Snider have two different views and claims on the effects of binge-viewing episodes has on people, as well as society. I currently agree with both viewpoints as McCormick’s viewpoint leads to the truth of Snider’s. I would agree that yes binge-watching episodes is “productive, often deliberate, and potentially transformative mode of viewing”. I would say that if the goal is to indeed get through many episodes of a season and be immersed in the full characterization and cinematic experience of the show. I would say that the repercussions of this lead to Sniders point that this type of viewing can lead to feelings of “loneliness, depression, and anxiety” and that binge-viewing can shape and change the dynamic of home-life of families. Families sitting around a TV and not talking due to no commercials and one episode immediately following another episode leaves no room for discussion or bonding within the home among friends or family.

I can connect with both of these author’s viewpoints because it does feel like an accomplishment finishing multiple episodes in a row or finishing a season in a weekend. Especially in today’s culture, it seems it is a race against time and each other to be the first one to finish a season as soon as it drops on Netflix. The unspoken truth about this culture and trend is how draining and ostracizing it feels to sit alone on a weekend or coming home from work and sitting down to watch two or three episodes before bed. I will admit I have spent a few weekends here and there cooped up watching episode after episode of Game of Thrones or Greys Anatomy. Watching House of Cards, I laid in bed with my lap top with my blinds shut and the door closed for six episodes in a row. This began to feel very claustrophobic and exhausting producing lots of anxiety for me to keep going. I feel as if watching more TV designed shows with episodes released once a week are easier because you can check your phone or lose concentration and still have a sense of what is going on or without missing anything too crucial. With shows like HOC or GOT, attention to detail is crucial for the viewer to pick up on subtleties and the depth of the show.





The Rise of Netflix

Netflix’s success can be given to its founders Marc Randolf and Reed Hastings for their idea to revolutionize media consumption and their game of chess, navigating the already powerhouse Block Buster. As Netflix popularity was on the rise at it’s beginning, Block Buster was doing everything in its power to stop the growth of the company, even if it meant going down with them. To combat Netflix’s online delivery service for movies, Block Buster created a website to stream movies online as well as deliver movies to consumers houses. Netflix was succeeding because Block Buster was losing money on every rental being checked out as well as their less than user friendly online presence. Netflix was able to create a more powerful online presence and delivery service which even allowed them to buy out Block Buster’s online subscription base. Block Buster also had a strained relationship with its CEO, shareholders, and Board of Advisors that made stock prices plummet.

Netflix has had a variety of rivals that continue to challenge Netflix’s ad-free programming. These rivals have created anytime, anywhere streaming that is a no-charge addition to their already purchased cable subscription. Rivals include: Vudu, Walmart’s DVD delivery service, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO, YouTube, and Yahoo Screen. They are also competing with illegally downloaded content and extralegal streaming sites in which users watch and comment on an online forum during commercials, taking away from advertising profits.

Netflix has been able to create an ad-free, subscription in which users can watch their TV shows and movies where and whenever they want. They have had the advantage of holding this image and most viewers now want to view their entertainment without the interruptions and inconvenience of commercials. This sets the bar high for competing companies but doesn’t allow for ad revenue for Netflix. For other competitors, such as Hulu, users only have to watch a short commercial at the beginning or during their program with lower subscription or any subscription fees all together. Netflix also has been purchasing content from other companies to allow their members to view, which has a big impact on their content expenses. Netflix has been able to combat this by creating its own content and has been successful with this venture with 14 Emmy nominations of its original content in 2013. However, if original content was to receive low ratings from viewers, Netflix would be directly impacted by their lack of viewers, not another producer. Competitors have followed Netflix’s idea and have started creating their own exclusive content as well, in an attempt to compete and retain their subscribers.

It is questionable whether or not Netflix’s business model is sustainable, but only time will tell. Lindsey comments that younger kids do not have credit or debit cards in which they can purchase subscriptions, so marketing should still be directed towards parents and young adults. As Netflix moves more onto a global scale, they should take note that there are already sites in which hold excessive amount of East Asian content for cheap subscriptions and very few commercials that will directly compete with Netflix. Lindsey advices that Netflix should pause before they make any big movements into that demographic. Finally, Lindsey even suggests that Netflix needs to find better ways for its subscribers to interact with not only content, but other subscribers as well. This would create a more interconnected user face, combatting extralegal sites and promoting more of an interactive entertainment experience.

I have and still continue to feel that the media that is created is not liberating to consumers as they choose which entertainment is consumed. Producers and companies will continue to buy and create material in which appeals to larger audiences for larger profits. This completely ignores more niche media as there is a smaller market for content. This doesn’t mean it will not be created necessarily, but less producers who will be willing to create such entertainment.