To Binge or Not To Binge

Lynn JataniaWe are Netflix subscribers, and that means we’re no strangers to the Binge Watch. It’s just so easy to curl up on the couch, especially on a rainy day or a sick day, and plug into a show. Each episode plays automatically, one after the other; you don’t even have to move, except to occasionally confirm that you’re still watching when Netflix prompts you, every three episodes or so.

(Memo to Netflix: OF COURSE we are still watching. We’re always still watching!)

We have one show that we like to watch as a family that isn’t on Netflix. It’s an animated YouTube show called RWBY (pronounced “ruby”). Each season of RWBY is about 12 episodes long, and it is released in October each year. There are two models for consumption: you can watch it for free if you wait for each episode to be released to the general public weekly, or you can pay a subscription fee and then get access to the entire season on day one.

To binge, or not to binge?

We were talking about RWBY the other day, and how excited we are for the new season this year. I asked my youngest if we should pay the money to buy the season upfront – something we haven’t done before, although we agonize all week long waiting for each episode to show up.

To my surprise, she said she’d rather NOT pay the money, and watch the show once a week.

She said that she liked having the week in between to really think about an episode, and what it meant.

She also liked being able to re-watch each episode and look for clues and hints, and to debate and discuss what might happen with her family and friends.

And she liked the feeling of suspense while waiting, and found each episode was much more exciting, a perfect payoff for the week-long buildup.

I found it fascinating, both because she could see a difference between shows she’s binge watched and shows that she hasn’t, and because she could put into words why waiting is actually better. She noticed that shows that she has binge watched become almost throwaway pieces of entertainment – things she is obsessed with for a short period of time and then forgets. Meanwhile, shows that she has to invest in and wait for, like RWBY, seem to fill her head with thoughts, and become something that she’ll remember and cherish. (And also buy posters of… and draw pictures of… and buy action figures for… and dress as for Hallowe’en… yup, we love RWBY.)

I don’t think it’s a hard and fast rule, but when it comes to consuming content – like most things – sometimes waiting is worth it. So for RWBY, we’ve decided to wait for the weekly releases, and to support the show’s makers by continuing to buy cool show-related swag instead.

The next time my kids get on a binge watching kick, I think I’ll bring this up. Is this the kind of show that is just a binge watch show – or is it a show that deserves some space, so we can ponder it and turn it into something that we really love?

How do you decide what’s a binge watch show – and do you find a difference in value when you binge watch?