THE BINGE IS KILLING THE WATER COOLER
Recently I found out that a good friend started binge watching Breaking Bad. Initially I was excited to talk to him about (in my opinion) the greatest drama in television history. Walt & Jesse make Don Draper & company look like a 60s era day time soap opera. When I reached out to him I realized that I couldn’t talk about the show because I was having a problem coming up with a frame of reference where the story arc was in season one. I just warned him, “stay off the internet as there are tons of Memes that turn out to be spoilers.” I also recommended that he listen to the Breaking Bad podcast and show companion that is hosted by one of the senior editors and often by show creator Vince Gilligan.
Binge watching? Spoilers? Podcast show companions? Memes? Yes I am still talking about television and I do not consider myself a television junkie. These touch points are now just a few iTunes subscriptions and clicks away. No longer do we go home and record Lost on our Tivos and talking about it Friday morning at work. Some argue that this lack of water cooler chat hurts a television show’s popularity. Thanks to streaming subscriptions and digital on demand, we may all be watching the same shows but not at the same time (and, in most cases, commercial free) – and thus eliminating the water cooler. There are still exceptions to the rules; wildly popular shows like Game Of Thrones and The Walking Dead, for instance, still get that immediate post-show chat. But how long will that model continue, I wonder.
Netflix banked on the binge when they released House of Cards in one swift data dump. They followed that up with a re-boot of Arrested Development and some original programming (Orange Is The New Black). Netflix does not care about the water cooler. They do not run commercials, and their revenue comes from their monthly subscription plans. Instead, Netflix wants you to come home every night and watch three hours of television from multiple devices (phones, tablets, XBox, etc.) – to see exactly what you want, when you want it. Beyond their impressive lineup of original programming, they will also reel you in by streaming shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men.
Personally, I am willing to give up the water cooler. I am willing to give up allowing shows to breathe and pace themselves. In closing, I feel the need to mention that I have not spoken about a single current television show broadcast on ABC, NBC & CBS. I prefer to keep it that way.
~ Jaime Hamel (@stophameltime), Digital Strategist, The S3 Agency