“I’d love to attribute that to how wonderful a show we have,” Gilligan said. “But if I’m being honest, I realize we’re riding a wave, a very new wave, that has been very beneficial to us and to other serialized shows.”
To be sure, all-you-can-eat viewing is not a new phenomenon.
Networks broadcast TV “marathons” to provide catch-up viewing and create anticipation for a new season of a returning show. The boxed set, containing a complete season’s worth of TV shows, has made for countless lost weekends.
The DVR made it possible for viewers to record an entire season’s worth of a show, to be watched in big gulps later. Some viewers even record a whole season of a new show without watching a single episode until they’re all recorded. If they don’t like the first episode they abandon the series. If they do, they spend a weekend bingeing.
But binge-viewing threatens to shake up television’s status quo. Along with the DVR, it’s another harbinger of the end of the time-honored network schedule, when executives dictated when viewers could watch a favorite show, said Jeffrey Cole, director of the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future.
“It’s the viewer saying, ‘I will watch it how I want to watch it — in some cases without commercials,’” Cole said. “It’s television on my terms.”
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Many television executives embrace the new opportunities for shows to find audiences. On-demand services like Netflix and Amazon.com’s Amazon Prime build anticipation and viewership for the new seasons of serialized dramas, AMC President Charlie Collier said.
Some advertisers may encourage the binge-viewing habit too. Viewer obsession with serialized dramas could fuel production of the next “Friday Night Lights,” a show whose loyal following was too small to keep the show on the prime-time schedule.