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The Rise of Binge-Watching and the Future of TV

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Binge watching has become so popular in the recent years-- it even made the list of runner-ups for Oxford Dictionary's 2013 word of the year. We asked experts and binge watchers, themselves, about the appeal of binge watching and what it means about us as a society.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A full plate of academics and extracurricular activities don't keep friends Alaina Arner and Christina March from watching hours of their favorite shows.

"We'll probably easily watch for four hours," said Christina March.

Sound familiar? Perhaps because you might binge-watch, as well.

The trend has exploded in the past couple of years. It's defined by Oxford Dictionary as "to watch multiple episodes of a television program in rapid succession, typically by means of DVD's or digital streaming."

"There's no commercial breaks to distract you, you can watch as much as you want, you don't have to worry about waiting until the next week if there's a giant cliff hanger at the end, which happens a lot," said March.

What happened to the days of watching your favorite show the old-fashioned way? On a TV set, at the same time every week, with the added anticipation?

"Well I think it just goes to instant gratification," said Deborah Larson, Assistant Professor of Media at Missouri State University. "I think it also goes to the instant gratification of our society at this point."

As binge watching grows, so do subscription costs. Services through Mediacom would cost you at least $45 for basic cable, $25 to $55 for internet connectivity, and $40 to $150 for bundles.

But paying for more than one service can put a burden on a budget. The solution? An $8 subscription to video streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu, plus an internet connection.

"I don't even own a TV," said March. "So Netflix and other sites like it-- they're the only way I can watch these shows."

"We're kind of seeing our mode, our pipeline being used differently from a direct broadcast to an internet where it's interactive and people see exactly what they want," said Steve Bennett, Area Director of Operations for Mediacom in Southwest Missouri. "Especially with the younger generation. They will get an iPad or a smartphone and they can view anything they want, as long as equipment is available, over the internet."

When you pair unlimited streaming with an avid appetite for binge-watching, it's hard to imagine how to fulfill daily duties.

"That's a good question," said March. "Usually it happens when it becomes midnight and I realize it's midnight. So I do my homework for the next day and then I go to sleep or I do it between classes."
 
Clinical psychiatrist Rachael Herrington says the trend is becoming the norm, but cautions against the bad of binging.

"You want to be considering what you're failing to do, so are you avoiding any sort of responsibilities?" said Herrington. "As psychologists, we're always interesting in figuring out if it interferes with your life. Are your loved ones concerned? Is it affecting your work and your school?"

As loading signs continue to fill our screens and entire seasons under our belt, could binge-watching be the way forward?

"I feel like the future is going to be that we're all going to watch what we want to watch when we want to watch it," said Larson.


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