We all know that binge-watching is a part of our lives and everyone else's. But when did the precise phenomenon of bingeing take-off? Well, you can thank Netflix and a little show called House of Cards. Here's what you need to know about what bingeing is - officially - and how we went from watching an episode a week to a series in a sitting...
The growing popularity of streaming TV and movie services has revolutionised the way we view content. The era of waiting days for the next episode of your favourite shows has passed; we now timeshift and create our own schedules – we are the masters of the viewniverse! With Go Binge, Three have developed a brand new service which allows you to listen and watch popular services like Netflix, Deezer, TVPlayer and Soundcloud without fear of overstepping your data allowance.
In 2016 consulting specialists Deloitte polled 2,205 consumers in the United States, and found that 70% now binge-watch TV shows, with 31% saying that they binge on their favourite shows on a weekly basis. But we wanted to find out whether the UK was following suit.
Over the last few months, Three has been undertaking research amongst thousands of British adults to reveal the bingeing habits of the nation in our most in-depth report on TV bingeing ever: the Binge Files.
Partnering with data specialists Censuswide, Three has canvassed the viewing habits of more than five thousand people across the UK. We’ve reviewed usage trends of millions of Three customers, in a bid to uncover how, why, where and when we consume our favourite TV shows, movies and live events in 2017. Before we dive into the data, it’s worth highlighting exactly what we mean by ‘bingeing’.
What is bingeing?
If we’re going to base our notion of binge viewing on any definition, then Netflix, the company that popularised the idea, seems as good a place as any to start.
In a survey conducted by Netflix in 2014, 73% of the people questioned defined binge viewing as “watching four or more episodes of the same TV show in one sitting”. If this seems a lot of television, then you may want to sit down for this next truth bomb, because in a later study in 2016, Netflix also revealed that most people finish the first season of a new show in under a week! Which also begs the question, why do we binge?
The Binge Files results support this, with 46% of our respondents aged between 16 and 24 unable to wait for the next episode once they’d started a new season.
The origins of Generation Binge
Binge viewing is not a new phenomenon, and was a by-product of the growth in popularity of TV boxsets in the 90s. But it wasn’t until the new millennium that bingeing would hit its stride, aided by the availability of digital downloads and online DVD rentals. By 2010 these services were beginning to take a sizeable chunk out of the global sales of DVDs and Blu-ray discs, and although the UK’s rental DVD market was dominated by LoveFilm, in the US another company was making huge strides into the VoD and DVD rentals market: Netflix.
From 2007, Netflix offered streaming, but it wasn’t until 2013, with the company’s shift into TV and movie production, that House of Cards changed everything. Before this point, if you were patient – or late enough to the party – then you could binge to your heart’s content on old shows. But with new shows? Forget it. But now there are even types of TV binger, who probably all need Go Binge. Now we have the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus with their deeper colours, OLED displays and the iPhone X‘s edge-to-edge screen, there’s even more reason to Go Binge.
The Atlantic’s Richard Lawson summed up this new phenomenon when he reviewed the series back in 2013:
“I started on episode six, and seven hours later, there I was, blinking my salty eyes and dying for more,” he wrote. “The fear, really, was that I’d be left behind if I didn’t finish.”
It wasn’t until Netflix premiered the entire first season of House of Cards on the same day in 2013 that we truly unleashed our binge demon, and we’ve been feeding it ever since!”
Download the full Binge Files report
Main pic: Getty via Mixmike