With the advent of DVRs, television programming began to change. Shows could expect a more dedicated audience. Now Netflix is unleashing all 13 episodes of its new series at once, for marathon viewing:
“House of Cards,” which is the first show made specifically for Netflix, dispenses with some of the traditions that are so common on network TV, like flashbacks. There is less reason to remind viewers what happened in previous episodes, the producers say, because so many viewers will have just seen it. And if they don’t remember, Google is just a click away. The show “assumes you know what’s happening all the time, whereas television has to assume that a big chunk of the audience is always just tuning in,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer.
While a large majority of TV is still watched live, not recorded, the ratings for some series — like FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” — double after a week of recorded viewing is counted. A first-of-its-kind Nielsen study last fall found that a handful of shows gain an extra 5 percent after another three weeks.
Nielsen does not routinely count viewers who wait more than a week to watch an episode, nor does it count most of the viewers who watch online, so it’s hard to estimate the true amount of bingeing. Some hoarders wait years: Mr. Mazzara, for instance, said he’s waiting to watch HBO’s “Girls” until the whole series is over, several years from now. This stockpiling phenomenon has become so common that some network executives worry that it is hurting new shows because they cancel the shows before would-be viewers get around to watching them.
Kevin Reilly, the Fox Entertainment chairman, whose network has already canceled two of the three shows it introduced last fall, alluded to this problem at a news conference earlier this month. “If I bumped into one more person that was doing a ‘Breaking Bad’ marathon in the middle of our fall launch…,” he said, trailing off as reporters laughed.
Watching one episode per night is just about perfect.