But that was just the popularization of the concept for the modern era, as the viewer was able to access all episodes consuming them rapidly. It is not when binge watching began.
Going back in history, as the installed base of TVs grew, commencing in the 60s and 70s, and as programs became more wide ranging in terms of stories, talent, etc., some shows succeeded and many failed, not unlike today.
When shows accumulated a solid body of work, the studios et al realized they could sell the content to the growing base of local TV stations, not just in the US, but in time, around the world. After all, who would not want to see I Love Lucy, MASH or the Honeymooners again and again, every day at an appointed time?
It was also not uncommon for TV marathons to be held, with hour after hour of a show for a full or significant part of a day, often on holidays, so that station personnel could be given the day off. This may have been one of the very early seeds that sprouted into binge watching, except it was not yet so labelled.
For many programs, not just the aforementioned, syndication of shows often meant the difference between success and failure, profit and loss. Today, it represents a vital component of whether or not a green light to production is given.
Feature films also found homes post theatrical on TV, including the networks and new innovative super channels such as TBS delivered via cable. Indeed, cable delivery enabled significant numbers of new channels to be created, changing the focus in part from what was termed broadcasting to the niche of specialized channels or narrowcasting.
Who would have thought that news 24 hours a day as done by CNN or entertainment content as in the E! channel would not only survive, but thrive?
Feature films, with the birth of subscription services such as HBO, nee Home Box Office, added to the value of TV and provided ongoing revenue to increasingly expensive movies. In time, large packages of movies were syndicated to the local TV stations for broadcast in their markets under certain conditions.
In the late 70s and early 80s, the VCR came into our homes. Movies could be purchased or rented economically and watched in the convenience and comfort of the home. Ring up another revenue stream for content producers.
TV product gained little traction with the VCR. To watch a full season would require packaging a dozen or more cassettes, a cumbersome and expensive process. It was tried selectively, but with little success. It was almost as though the studios could not give the content away.
Modern binge watching, other than TV marathons, came about with the advent of the DVD. Now full seasons could be put on one disc at a reasonable cost. Marketing changed, too, during this time, when the prior season would be released on DVD in anticipation of the new season. This often prompted people to buy or rent “last” season, binge watch, and be ready for the new season.
Full seasons of shows on DVD not only provided added revenue and profits, but also brought in new viewers to the current season, thus extending the program’s reach.
Modern binge watching through technology has enabled the creative team to think the story arc out into the full season, unencumbered by the scheduling of meeting broadcast deadlines week after week.
Thus, binge watching, an important business model today and an important component to the future of TV, did not start yesterday.
In fact, technology has enabled the shelf life of product to be extended, well beyond what was the “normal” distribution methods as new technologies came onstream. In fact, shelf life today is virtually unlimited.
As for the future of TV, syndication of content will continue, it just will not be for library product only.
What do you binge watch?
As for The Shindler Perspective
Siggraph – We are just a little more than a week from the annual Siggraph Conference, to be held in Anaheim this year. Siggraph attracts a much larger attendee and exhibitor audience when it is held in Southern California. We are looking forward to hearing announcements on new technology products and services as well as connecting with the many people we know within the overall content creation and computer graphics industry.
We are expecting to see a significant increase in the many virtual reality and augmented reality tools over prior years as the industry segment continues its growth curve. The technology is still in its nascent days and there are numerous companies attempting to stake a claim. As represented by the Gartner Hype Cycle, some companies will succeed and some will not, ending up as a part of the inevitable consolidation or merely disbanding.
If you are planning to be there and would like to set a time to meet up, please let me know.
Creative Storage – The Creative Storage Conference was a few weeks ago and my Trekking to the Cloud panel was well attended and well received by an audience comprised of personnel representing all points on the content creation and distribution value chain. The panel of executives from Akamai, Cisco, Echostar and FileCatalyst discussed the future of broadband, including wired, wireless and satellite.
Trends in the marketplace and other
Mobile data – One of the key trends in the marketplace discussed by the Trekking panel is the decline in the number of US adults with home broadband, currently at 67%. This, coupled with Americans using more than 10 billion gigabytes of mobile data last year, speaks clearly to the importance of the forthcoming spectrum auctions and the very recent FCC announcement laying the groundwork for a rollout of 5G networks.
All of this is occurring while some broadband providers such as Comcast are increasing their data caps, the amount of data allowing under consumer plans, and increasing download speeds to meet the burgeoning needs of the competitive marketplace.
Comics reflect reality – The theme of reading all “you can get your hands on” as espoused by Alvin Toffler in our recent blog on his passing, extends to comics, something with which regular readers here, and of my social posts, are familiar. The creators of the comics keep a sharp eye on trends in the marketplace and the impact of pop culture in our personal and business lives.
With a Star Trek movie release imminent, Bizarro voiced his thoughts about this iconic program. Star Trek, in all of its various series, comprises well over 700 total episodes as well as numerous feature films. As I look at the Future of TV, though, I wonder what the syndication business will look like in the next 5 – 10 years as subscription VOD and unbundling continues to gain traction globally. But that is a blog for another day.
Roberta Shindler and I welcome your feedback on this newsletter and inquiries on how we can contribute to your success.
For The Shindler Perspective, Inc.
Chief Executive Officer