Thanks to the phenomenon of binge watching, there's no shame in staying home during the weekend to crash on the couch and obsessively watch your favorite TV show. Despite viewers being glued to their TV sets, having an entire season or series at one's disposal can eliminate the lucrative advertising opportunity of the traditional 30 second commercial.
"Advertisers need to think a lot more about how people are watching TV these days to tailor their creative a little bit more closely," said Tony Lederer, executive strategy director at advertising and marketing agency Grey Group.
About half of Americans proudly admitted to being a binge watcher, according to a December survey by accounting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken, who has done work for Netflix, said the recent abundance of critically acclaimed and premium programming has helped lead to the activity's rise.
"Netflix made it possible to have choice and control when, where and the frequency people want to watch," he said. "There are lots of great shows on right now that they are binging on. No one is binging the 'Dukes of Hazard' or 'The Rockford Files.'"
With the prevalence of the behavior, even linear networks are more open to releasing entire seasons of a show at once instead of weekly. The entire first season of NBC's new drama "Aquarius" appeared online right after the show's two-hour broadcast premiere on Thursday night. CBS will make the entire season of James Patterson's new TV show "Zoo" available on Netflix soon after the season finale airs.
Binge watching behavior is also giving power back to the creators, McCraken pointed out. Episodes of the fourth season of "Arrested Development" on Netflix didn't have to stick to the standard 22-minute length of a 30-minute program to make space for commercials. Instead, they varied between 28 to 37 minutes.
Hulu senior vice president of advertising sales Peter Naylor said knowing that people watch episode after episode is something the video service thinks about. While its programs still keep the traditional commercial breaks, it has fewer ads. It's also aware that it may have to tweak how many breaks appear in the future, especially when a viewer might be settling in for an extended viewing period.
"Viewer fatigue (due to commercials) is something we're thinking about," Naylor said.