Television, a nearly universal innovation of the modern world, is perhaps reinventing the new ‘American pastime.’ Catering especially to American viewers, new television series are being developed with the habits of consumers of television in mind, especially the new trend of ‘marathoning’ or watching multiple seasons of a show in a day or weekend. Viewers of this kind don’t need constant recaps like normal television audiences would, making for a more complex and better overall story when the action is more sequential and less separated by the end of each individual episode.
Netflix is releasing a season simultaneously, with all 13 episodes available at once, of the first television series made especially for Netflix ‘House of Cards.’ This simultaneous streaming of the whole season is supposed to be conducive to the way viewers actually watch television, since the phenomenon has escalated to quite a new level. As ‘bingeing’ on television grows in popularity, the ability of producers to keep series running long enough to spark enough interest is tried, since Neilson ratings don’t include views who wait longer than a week to watch an episode, or online viewings. A few producers worry that they won’t be able to air shows long enough to cater to potential viewers who wait until seasons are over to watch them all at once.
Although the actual behavior of watching seasons or trilogies etc. of movies and shows all at once has been around since the advent of ‘box sets,’ the web and companies like Netflix have greatly encouraged ‘marathoning.’ People are enticed by the idea of watching the whole show at once, especially if it’s their favorite, instead of waiting over the course of the season to see each installment. Recording shows on DVR is another way that watching T.V. has been influenced- with the ability to record and save shows for later, people can record all the episodes of their favorite shows and watch them all in a ‘marathon’- type event.
While television is popular everywhere, Netflix focuses on America for this test show ‘House of Cards’ because of the ‘bingeing’ or ‘marathoning’ habits observed there. Producers are encouraged by these trends, as it means their work, the shows, will be viewed as a continuous piece like a novel instead of individual chapters alone. As society advances, anything that creates long waits is slowly eliminated, from travel time (horses compared to cars), communication time (mail compared to email) and now, view time (days instead of seasons). If Netflix manages to draw enough of a revenue from ‘House of Cards,’ the form may catch on elsewhere, and even prevail as the best way to reach the most viewers on T.V. Waiting a whole week for the next part of the show will be a thing of the ‘old days’ soon enough.