Love in the Time of Binge-Watching

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The simple act of gathering around a TV set to share the experience of watching a program together feels increasingly quaint. Thanks to streaming services, on-demand access and the little devices we carry in our pockets and purses, we can watch what we want, when we want, where we want.

Yet with all those options, it can be tough to align the where-when-how of two busy people.

For Mr. Kolko, co-watching works well. But the high-tech fussiness required to produce an oldfangled enjoyment is not lost on him. “Neither the problem nor the solution would have existed a few years ago,” he said.

…In modern-day romance, resisting the impulse to binge so that you may watch with a lover is the new equivalent of meeting the parents or sharing a sober kiss. “You know you’ve found the one when they say they won’t watch the next episode of the series you’ve been binge-watching together without you”…

…[Another] couple likes to stockpile episodes of shows like “Top Chef” and then watch over a single weekend. To make sure that plots lines and suspense are not sacrificed in the name of finding time to see the show together, the couple enact filtering functions on Twitter.

For instance, Ms. Thomas will change her settings such that any mention of a “Top Chef” contestant is filtered from her feed, and she will mute the posts coming from Bravo, the network that presents “Top Chef,” as well as those from one of the program’s judges, Tom Colicchio. “You have to be really proactive,” Ms. Thomas said. “It’s really quite an undertaking.”

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For Millennials, the End of the TV Viewing Party

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A decade ago, a home — even, in many cases, a dorm room — without a television would have seemed virtually unthinkable, like a house without a telephone.

And, that, in a sense, is the point.

Just as the landline went from household staple to quaint anachronism seemingly overnight during the last decade (acquiring a profoundly uncool air along the way), the television set has started to look at best like a luxury, if not an irrelevance, in the eyes of many members of the wired generation, who have moved past the “cord-cutter” stage, in which they get rid of cable, to getting rid of their TV sets entirely.

…“I live in New York City, I find events to go to every night, and have seen my social and professional life flourish as a result,” Ms. Lieberman said. “While there are certainly the rare nights where I find myself curling up with an iPad to catch a show, the only time I watch a program from an actual set is during my daily morning run at the gym.”

Netflix Is Going to Rule TV After All

Robin Wright accepts the Golden Globe for her role in Netflix's House of Cards.Image: Paul Drinkwater/AP

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Meanwhile, Netflix charges eight bucks a month to watch anything, anytime, anywhere, painlessly. Until recently, NetFlix still seemed like a supplement to the rest of TV, especially given its sometimes spotty offerings. But its original content upended that calculus, especially because it showed a willingness and ability to make shows whose quality rivaled anything on cable.

What’s more, Netflix isn’t hamstrung by anything as retro as seasons or time slots. No matter how good their shows are, the core business of HBO or Showtime or AMC is limited by how much programming they can fit into a 168-hour week. But Netflix can make as many or as few shows as it likes and put them up any time of year.

Netflix is also willing to release an entire season of shows at one time.

Why We’re Hardwired to Binge on Netflix

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The company then sent cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken into the homes of TV streamers to find out why. McCracken reported that 76% said bingeing was a welcome refuge from their busy lives, and nearly eight in ten people said binge-watching a TV show made it more enjoyable than watching single episodes. So despite our hectic, digitally driven lifestyles and 140-character social interactions, McCracken concludes that we’re actually craving the long narratives that today’s good television can provide. Instead of dealing with the day’s stresses by zoning out, we’d rather become engrossed in an entirely different (and fictional) world.