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February 11, 2013

Binge-viewing transforms TV experience

(Continued)

The absence of ads means that each episode has more time for story lines and relationships — as much as 15 more minutes of story per television hour.

“We’ve been impacting how people watch and when they watch,” Sarandos said. “But ‘House of Cards’ is the first thing on Netflix that’s ever been actually crafted to be watched in multiple episodes. So there’s no catch-up. There’s no exposition. There’s no ‘previously on’ or ‘next on.’”

Modi Wiczyk, co-chief executive of Media Rights Capital, the independent studio that financed and produced “House of Cards,” said Netflix won the right to distribute the series because it gave the creators total artistic freedom.

Its two-season, 26-episode commitment created a huge canvas for storytelling and gave the creators a shot at being a network-defining show, in the mold of HBO’s “The Sopranos” or FX’s “The Shield.”

“This is going to be part of the continuation of this story of the change in how people consume content,” Wiczyk said.

Fox executives first noticed the binge-viewing phenomenon with “24” as fans bought DVDs of the Kiefer Sutherland drama, with some people watching multiple episodes in a single weekend.

Netflix said the practice exploded with “Breaking Bad,” the AMC drama starring Bryan Cranston as a cancer-ridden chemistry teacher turned meth dealer. The service found that 74 percent of subscribers who began with a single episode of the first season ended up watching the entire run. The percentages were even higher when Netflix studied subsequent seasons.

Vince Gilligan, creator of “Breaking Bad,” said these changing viewing habits are liberating writers from the conventional wisdom that individual TV episodes should be self-contained and stand on their own. “Breaking Bad” broke those rules and has seen its viewership grow every season, which is unusual for a serialized drama.

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