binge-watch

How I Picked Up The Habit of Binge Watching And Why I Love It

 

In December 2006, I went to Hyderabad to be part of a rather strange venture. My memory of this silly adventure is fading away, what I vaguely remember is that a man behind an Orkut group called, Bharat Udaya Mission floored me with amazingly big talk about his big mission for human kind and invited me to join his revolution, said he needed leaders like me to make great things possible. He was based in USA and said his team was in Hyderabad. He sent me air tickets to fly down to Hyderabad and meet his team, visit the office and think over whether I would want to be part of it. I hardly understood what he was doing or talking about but then that’s my thing, to jump in anything new and weird.
 
It was an early morning flight to Hyderabad. One of his boys, was supposed to pick me up but it seemed he couldn’t wake up or didn’t remember the date I was coming. I waited for three hours for him to arrive during which I made hundreds of calls and the guy didn’t pick. It was then that I realized that I had reached Hyderabad without even an address of the place where I was going.
 
I was put up in a flat where four other boys of this mission were staying, and the floor above was his parents where I and others had our meals.
 
I stayed there for around seven days doing nothing. The guy who picked me up told me, “We work at nights. You take rest and I will come and pick you in the evening to go to office.” I spent the whole day in a room with nothing but a bed and a shelf, reading a magazine and sleeping. In between I just had toilet breaks and the uncle upstairs called me for lunch. The boy didn’t pick me in the evening, I went nowhere and had nothing to do except stare at the walls since I had finished reading the magazine.
 
Same thing happened next day. On day 3 I ventured out to see the Charminar and have Hyderabadi Biryani. The day was well spent but evening was very boring. On day 4 the boy finally came to take me to the office. The whole thing was shrouded in such mystery and looking back I am not even sure if it was safe. As Vinayak used to tell me and Snigdha, “You guys just got lucky a lot. The kind of things you do, very lucky that you never got into trouble.”
 
My recruiter’s big mission remained a secret to me but on the outside it turned out he was simply running a head hunting service for American employers. MBAs mostly. I think it was about recruiting India’s best minds in American companies and secretly overtaking them. Or something.
 
Next few days I attended the office in the evening trying to figure out how is this going to change the world, and where are the secret doorways to the Mission office. In another 3-4 days I told them I wanted to go back home. I didn’t give them any reason. I had no reason to go there in the first place, and I had no justification for leaving. It was dad’s birthday the next day, I got restless and just wanted to be back home.
 
He kept his word, booked the flight and I came back home to be with dad on his birthday. And that’s the end of this story.
 
You must be wondering about the title of this story. Well, this long story that you read was not really about my silly misadventure in Hyderabad. It was about me surviving a solitary confinement sort of 4-5 days, doing nothing but binge watching TV shows, long before the popularity of content streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and others.
 
Earlier, on day 2 or 3 of my arrival, my host had given me a laptop and a set of FRIENDS VCDs to watch if I got bored. I was bored a lot and I watched FRIENDS back to back season after season with guilty pleasure. I asked myself, what am I doing, why am I here, but before I could find answers I was hooked to another episode, another season. I forgot there was a world outside the room I was staying in. In the evenings I went to the office but days were spent like this. I came home with this habit of binge watching and never got rid of it.

 

Ten years down, I am a big binge watcher. I do extensive research on popular television shows and watch the ones I like in terms of theme. Binge-watching was largely popularized by Netflix with the 2013 release of the entire season of “House of Cards.” The company’s monthly subscription service reached 94 million customers at the end of 2016.

As the habit has become very common among millennials, people these days are writing listicles about best TV shows to binge watch. And the list of shows to watch has gone beyond British and American television. Here’s is a list of 6 Israeli TV shows to binge-watch.

Binge watching TV is the best, writes Rachel Adkins on The Daily Independent. “Streaming websites like Netflix and Hulu have simplified choosing what film or show to watch, displaying hundreds of options that include every available episode. They remove the waiting game of being able to watch just one weekly episode of a program, easing the anticipation that follows the ending of a show that makes you wonder what happens next. However, this can be both a positive and a negative. The instant gratification can become addicting, and before you know it, you’ve spent five hours glued to your computer screen, wandering where the time has gone,” says Adkins.

“Binge-watching feeds a home-grown television revolution: New viewing habits allow experimentation and creativity, and the BBC is joining in,” observes Emma Jacobs on Financial Times.

Recently, BBC opened up its  iPlayer service and surrendered ‘linear’ exclusivity to compete with the hugely popular streaming service Netflix. “The BBC is abandoning linear exclusivity as it goes for broke to make the iPlayer a global Netflix rival. The corporation says it will throw entire series on to the on-demand streaming service before the first episode in a series is even broadcast on terrestrial TV,” writes this report.  

As something become big there are always concerns about how it is affecting the culture, environment, human psychology and growth. Greenpeace says binge-watching all those TV shows is bad for the environment. “Streaming-video services like Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video store their high-quality content on servers around the world and then deliver that data to customers’ devices. These services don’t just eat up customer data plans, they also require a lot of energy. And rarely does that energy come from renewable sources, a new report (pdf) by Greenpeace found.”

Some critics are concerned that binge watching is anti-art as it reduces appreciation for the show. “Televsion is a type of long-form art. Writers, directors and producers work diligently to bring their thoughts and imaginations into homes when making a television show. Bingeing might as well be known as anti-art. Imagine telling somebody they are defacing art by bingeing Game of Thrones. I bet that’ll get them to stop. Bingeing is anti-art. Don’t binge. There is a certain novelty to watching a television show from start to finish in real time. You build a relationship with the characters and even the places they visit and live. In The Office, Jim and Pam didn’t get together in one season; it wasn’t overnight, and there’s no way to fully appreciate that in one weekend,” writes Luis Rosario on The Bona Venture.

“How Binge Watching Ruined Network TV explains Kofi Outlaw in a Slideshow on Comicbook.com. “As with any significant change, there’s been a balance of gains and losses as old trends have ended, and new ones sprung up in their place. One of the most obvious losses has been the network TV zeitgeist – a space that all viewers occupied together, but has since fractured, as people now absorb TV programming on their own terms, and in their own time frames,” he writes.

However, in spite of the cautionary headlines about its negative impact, industry predictions are that binge watching as a consumer habit and entertainment business is only going to grow. Netflix Wants the World to Binge-Watch: The streaming service has a plan to expand everywhere, and it begins in São Paulo,” runs the headlines on Bloomberg Businessweek. “For Netflix, this Brazilian invasion is just the start. The company wants the attention of the world’s well-off cosmopolitan consumers, and is investing billions of dollars in a multifront effort to create a lingua franca of original programming, while also upgrading the world’s video streaming structure. It’s like a worldwide Marshall Plan for premium home entertainment.”

What more the Netflix’s binge-watching model is also set to take over TV says this report. “Traditional TV networks are following Netflix’s lead by releasing all new episodes of a series at the same time, a step to win over binge viewers who do not want to wait a week for the next installment. The move poses a direct challenge to Netflix and a way for more traditional networks to reach for younger, digital-savvy consumers who insist on watching on their own schedules. Walt Disney network Freeform, which targets a younger audience, put the entire 10-episode season of new sci-fi drama “Beyond” on digital and on-demand platforms on Jan. 2, a first for the channel. By Jan. 10, it was ready to order a second season.”

Over the least 3-4 years I have binge watched several shows, House MD remains at the top of my list. And recently Happy Valley absolutely blew my mind. But I have not followed the shows with mass popularity, like Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Game of Thrones. Instead I watched lesser known shows some old some new, Sherlock, Fleabag, Atlanta, Bojack Horseman, Chance, Broadchurch and more. I personally feel it is impossible for today’s time to follow the TV’s schedule and watch a show at a particular day and time. Especially people like me who get passionately involved with things, take it to the extreme and then quickly move on to the next passion. As I binge-watch a certain show for hours and days, I become another character in that story, I begin to walk and talk like those characters. I even pick up accent. The love for binge-watching is something I have not been able to explain to my sister and that pain really is the reason why I wrote such a long blog post.

Signing off.

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