THE BLOG

Binge-Watching TV Shows

03/26/2015 04:40 pm ET | Updated May 26, 2015
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If something is good we want more of it.

And if it's readily available for us to consume at once, a lot of us will.

This is the case for a lot of products. Food comes to mind. Books are another example. And recently, with the expansion of technology, TV shows have more radically than ever entered that mix.

With food, we'll ultimately just stop eating because we're full.

With reading, we can skate through a novel depending on our stamina to stick with a compelling plot - we have the entire story in our hands, no one is waiting to give us chapter 7 next week.

With watching TV, however, not so long ago the paradigm of content delivery was modeled on a non-rapid consumption pattern. We might have been adamant to "turn the page" to the next episode or series, but we had to wait. Wait for the season to be released on DVD. Wait for a bundle of series to be made available.

Although there still remains certain constraints that dictate how much we can readily consume at any given time, the viewing consumption game has absolutely changed in recent years.

Live streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu along with On Demand services like Xfinity now allow us to indulge our immediate cravings to have more now and "binge watch" episode after episode, season after season, series after series, ad infinitum to our heart's content.

As consumer behavior around binge watching via streaming, in particular, ramps up and becomes more mainstream and, potentially with time, the preferred way to watch TV shows, what will be the implications to how brands advertise?

How can we best persuade consumers to motivate trial and drive continued product use?

That question will not go away. It will always be germane for brand marketers and advertisers to answer. Yet how brands answer it will change - a more fragmented brand marketplace combined with a more competitive landscape of media vehicles will require ingenuity, creativity, and the courage to push traditional boundaries of thinking.

As consumers become more apt to swap the click of a remote for the opening of a laptop or tablet to "tune in", brands will need to reassess how they buy and place their media.

Allocating more media dollars to digital is a smart move. But that behavior has become table stakes. Understanding the nuances among and the discrete effectiveness of varying digital platforms and content vehicles is the exercise savvy brands are undertaking. And that will be their competitive advantage because the platforms that are the darlings of the streaming world play by different rules.

Netflix does not (yet) allow brands to infiltrate their site through traditional advertising. You can show up via branded content embedded in episodes through product placement (Anheuser-Busch has done it), but you cannot pay to be featured as a digital video pre-roll.

House of Cards was released, exclusively on Netflix, in its full glory and was immediately consumed by what can comfortably be assumed to be millions over the course of its debut weekend and week (based off platform usage and volume of online social conversations). The first season of Empire is now available On Demand and can similarly be consumed in rapid succession.

I spent this past weekend binge watching Empire. I didn't intend to. But a desire to check out the show drove trial and the content and plot drove repeat... and repeat, and additional repeat.

On certain shows, you cannot fast forward through the commercials. Empire is one of them. Fine, a small price to pay to get the content faster. I just wish the folks at Fox would realize that people often binge-watch popular shows when they choose to consume On Demand. Maybe then they wouldn't have featured the same American Idol advertising spot what felt like 10+ times every single episode.

Inciting awareness is one thing, but overexposure of stimuli (especially annoying advertising) can credibly lead to a severe tipping point of diminishing returns (i.e. not having the intended effect of people responding positively to the message).

How are brands showing up to the groundswell of people watching wildly popular TV show content on these specific platforms?

It's an interesting premise to reflect on what "TV shows" will even mean in the context of live streaming via digital devices. Could "TV" disappear altogether and just leave "shows" - creative assets and content made for viewing on digital platforms, not necessarily on the traditional main screen of a television?