Leicester expert discusses the rise of bingewatching through new digital platforms

Fans of popular TV programmes such as Game of Thrones, the Walking Dead or Orange is the New Black may be familiar with the idea of binge-watching – sitting back and watching through multiple episodes of shows which carry an almost addictive quality.

Following a new report released today by Ofcom examining Britain’s Box Set habits, Professor Barrie Gunter from the School of Media, Communication and Sociology has written an article for Think: Leicester discussing how on-demand services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are becoming more prevalent and have changed how we consume media, allowing us construct our own TV schedules and pick and choose what we want to watch.

In the article Professor Gunter writes: “In the 21st century, the media landscape has transformed beyond all recognition. Most people have access to hundreds of TV channels. Other video entertainment content is available over the Internet. Viewing is not restricted to the TV set, but is now possible through a range of other technologies such as home computers, tablets and smartphones that we can carry around with us all the time. 

“Binge-watching is one of a suite of media-related phenomena – others including playing video games and checking social media sites – that have become increasingly prevalent.

“’Non-linear viewing’ is becoming increasingly the norm, especially for the younger generation commonly known as the ‘millennials’. Sometimes, we might watch an entire series in a weekend. This ‘binge-viewing’ phenomenon doesn’t happen all the time but it is becoming more and more prevalent.”

The article highlights that while these services are convenient and becoming ubiquitous for many, they could also potentially have negative health implications if used irresponsibly.

Professor Gunter said: “The key concerns include the impact of lack of movement on immediate health conditions, the long-term effects of sedentary behaviour on weight gain and lack of physical fitness, the effects of an over-reliance of mediated entertainment on social connectedness, and for children especially, the effects of constant video stimulation on attention span and cognitive abilities.   

“Much more research is needed to address all these issues. Digital media are not going away. Understanding the effects of specific patterns of use might help in turn to create counter-measures that bingers will adopt for themselves in order to strike a healthier balance to their entertainment-seeking behaviour.”