We've been talking a lot about TV lately—how there are only a few remaining shared cultural TV moments (what'd you think of last week's GoT ep?!) because of the glut of content available. If bingeing or waiting for shows makes us more passionate about them. And now we're going to get to the root of it all—how obsessed are we with TV really? And is our obsession turning from excitement to obligation? Spoiler alert: THE ANSWER IS YES.
Let's do what we do best, and dive into the data. Woo!
We know the number of TV shows is out of control, but how does that make us feel—super pumped? Or holy shit how will I ever watch all of these in my life? Both!
In the entertainment study I spearheaded last year, we found an interesting conundrum developing. People are almost just as overwhelmed as they are in love with the number of shows available. For 25-34-year-olds, it's even.
Why is that? Not only will we ever catch up, the growth in shows has created a mirrored growth in researching what to watch.
In the confessions of an overwhelmed TV critic, Matthew Gilbert describes it this way: "Life during this TV glut is a crazy thing. It’s literally an embarrassment of riches, as five or 10 new series appear every week, giving me the stink eye and daring me to fit them into my viewing schedule. It’s like I’m sinking into quicksand every day, never caught up, as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, basic cable, pay cable, YouTube, Facebook Watch, Crackle, and the networks, but mostly Netflix, keep breeding content like digital rabbits. Sure, it’s great that we have more to choose from, that we’re not living in a four-network world. But still, this TV excess can oppress."
On average, most people have six shows on their watch list at one time. And with only so many hours in a day, we need to make the right choice for what's next on our priority list. Worst case scenario you sink a few hours into watching a so-so show only to realize you should cut bait. Best case scenario, you can quickly curate your list via the copious amounts of "what to watch on Netflix" newsletters you get.
But beware of the black hole—a fourth of the 25-34-year-old group spend more than 30 minutes searching for what to watch—they could've watched an episode in that amount of time!
Most age groups are reading more critic reviews, watching more trailers and asking for more recos than they were the year prior. Rotten Tomatoes is reaping the benefits as they've become increasingly important in decision making, with 60% of the 25-34 group saying it impacts what they watch.
TV is beginning to look a lot like homework, not Christmas.
Why are we so willing to do all of this research about what to watch? Because we're OBSESSED. Why do I say that? Based on what we'd give up for it.
Guess how many people would give up alcohol, caffeine, vacation or dessert for a YEAR just to keep Netflix. 81 PERCENT. What would you give up?? I'm sorry, I know this is a really mean thought experiment—I can't imagine life without my rosé, or iced hazelnut coffee, or taking a vacay or my nightly Halo Top routine (Birthday Cake is the best flavor JIC you're wondering)—but I also can't imagine NOT watching the new Brene Brown show and Beyonce doc...
What else would people sacrifice just to watch all the TV they want? We worked with Entertainment Weekly and their group of TV fanatics called the "Front Row Panel" to find out. No surprise, they'd have no time for work, exercise and housework (#same) if they watched all the shows they wanted. Surprisingly, though, they would have no time for friends, sleep, going outside, socializing and even sex. Apparently, TV is the new birth control.
TV was originally meant to bring people together, but it seems quite the opposite is happening.
When asked how often they are watching TV alone, 82% say they are solo viewers all of the time or sometimes. And bingeing has a lot to do with this. Now that you can catch up on a show whenever you want to, the time is always NOW.
When asked why they are watching alone, people were quoted saying things like "Lately my husband and I are liking different shows so he watches them in his man cave and I watch in the living room" or "it's hard to keep up with everything with the entire family; we've started breaking off and watching shows that are priorities to us as individuals and not the entire unit."
When interviewing senior EW writer Anthony Breznican about this topic, his comment was one of warning: "the fracturing of society is alarming". If you don’t want your life to play out like a Black Mirror episode, maybe it’s ok to watch a show you don’t like to get quality time with your S.O.
What does this all mean? We love TV! We hate TV! Society needs more togetherness, not less, so maybe we should sacrifice that next TV binge instead of human connection.