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Binge-watching is the new black ... or is it?
Wow: Everywhere you turn these days there's another story on binge-watching or binge-viewing; hell, I'm even working on one myself. But you know it's really hit the mainstream when "Today Show" gets into the act, which happened just this morning. Kate Snow put together this piece that portrays this as an explosive trend . . . but count me as just one little skeptic in the churning ocean of hype.
It certainly is taking place, and it certainly has grown, but I defy anyone to give real numbers on its incidence (Nielsen can't -- yet). They do exist, at Netflix, but good old gimlet-eyed Netflix isn't giving those numbers out. The major cable networks, like Comcast and Cablevision (owner of Newsday) have a pretty good idea, too, based on DVR usage. They're not in a sharing mood either. [By the way, a highly reputable source tells me cable VOD - video on demand - data does NOT indicate a huge increase or really much of an increase at all in "binge-watching;" who is this source? Ah - tease alert! - you will have to read my story in Newsday to find out...]
In fact, Netflix is more secretive than IBM or the NSA -- they know a great deal about what's going on, but they refuse to divulge it. There are good reasons for that. Once you give out a number, people will use it as a benchmark, and it's very easy to distort the meaning of numbers. But speculation and hype also tend to fill the void - and in the process add a little rocket booster fuel to Netflix's already stratospheric stock price.
Everyone is making this huge assumption that the entire nation has turned into zombies, as they watch hour after hour after hour after hour (after hour) of "Battlestar Galactica" or "House of Cards" or whatever.
Again, show me the numbers!
By the way, "Orange is the New Black" -- coming out mid-July on Netflix -- just picked up a second season, even though Netflix hasn't got a clue yet whether millions of its 30-million-plus U.S. subscribers will gorge on this in one sitting. I'm sure it'll do well. I just have doubts as to how many bingers are really out there.