By Josh McClain
Fifteen years ago, binging referred to the overconsumption of alcohol, money, or other abusive substances, which most Christians are not proud of. Today, teens and young adults use the same word to describe watching the latest movies and series on streaming platforms for hours. like Netflix or Disney Plus. Just as the connotations of words change over time in response to cultural change, the “frenzy” revolution represents a response to the emergence of accessible streaming technology.
Streaming services began as an offshoot of the booming movie rental industry. Entrepreneur Marc Randolph and computer scientist Reed Hastings founded Netflix in 1997 as the world’s first online DVD rental mail-order company. The company’s “video on demand” service was only launched in 2007 and originally only allowed access to 1,000 titles, compared to 100,000 available for physical rental.
Hulu surfaced soon after in 2008 with a similar setup. As the market grew, these mediums began to deliver original content. Hulu launched its own web series “The Morning After” in 2011, and Netflix followed in 2013 with its “House of Cards” show. From there, these streaming services continued to grow, with Hulu adding live TV and sports in 2017.
Several other streaming services had entered the market before 2019, but COVID-19 has taken the industry to a whole new level. Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, HBO Max, and many other streaming services launched shortly after the world was locked down. With countless people stuck at home due to virtual schooling and unemployment, streaming has become a common midlife pastime.
BBC News reported that 12 million people signed up for new services during the lockdown and that streamers were spending an average of an hour and 11 minutes watching content each day. Thus, binge-watching has solidified as a common practice.
However, streaming services did not disappear when COVID-19 declined and the world began to reopen. In fact, they seem set to stick around for a long time. COVID-19 has shown that Americans can stock up on movies even when theaters close, and many fans now prefer the accessibility of streaming movies to the hassle of going to the theaters.
Luke Wiley, a marketing student at Cedarville University, believes streaming services will soon overtake the box office, relegating the theatrical experience to a nostalgic journey every now and then. “I followed the box office numbers for a statistics course… We tend to reduce the number of tickets sold,” he said. “Over time, movie theaters will follow the CD and VHS path – slowly disappearing as more and more people accept new media.”
On the other hand, Sean O’Connor, assistant professor of broadcasting, digital media and journalism at Cedarville, takes a more optimistic view, noting: “There are at least enough people now who are passionate about this experience and angry with some streaming services. to make day-to-day releases or simply to cast streaming movies in order to maintain profits. Either way, streaming services have started to steal views from the theater industry.
In addition, streaming services are putting the future of cable TV at risk. Many streaming providers are now offering live on-demand TV including sports, game shows and reality TV at a competitive price compared to the broadcast companies. With this advent comes many shortcomings of cable – additional hardware, fees, and hundreds of channels consumers will never use.
On the other hand, these services do not offer local news, a mainstay of television, and cellular connections do not offer the consistency of television broadcasting, which could ruin the viewing experience. Still, it’s only a matter of time before technology allows streamers to access these benefits as, if not better, than cable TV.
By sucking content from theaters and conventional television, media companies are forcing consumers to accept the consequences of streaming services as a medium. Some of them can serve constructive uses in everyday life.
For example, Netflix’s introduction of on-demand streaming allowed viewers to watch a greater variety of movies than those in theaters, providing access to more niche perspectives and less overall bias. Their flexibility and accessibility on all screens also makes it easy to watch content with friends and family.
Of course, these services also present the temptation to frenzy. Theaters and cable networks once forced viewers to adjust their viewing habits: TV shows were released once a week for a few months, and movies were only released in theaters for a limited time before moving on to purchasable DVDs.
Today, consumers can watch an entire season of a TV series in a single day or watch almost any movie with just a few clicks on their iPad. This sweeping accessibility fosters a frenzied audience, seemingly the same kind of “binging” that once characterized harmful compulsions like alcoholism.
Obviously, overuse of alcohol has more drastic consequences than excessive streaming, but health officials still express serious concerns about the practice of binge-watching. Media companies have added innocent features, such as automatic episode queues and personalized viewing suggestions, to encourage continued viewing, which increases profits but hides viewers from the sacrifices they make. by remaining inactive.
Scientists have warned that binge watching can lead to physical illnesses like sleep deprivation and eye strain as well as the usual danger of overeating. Snacking has always paired wonderfully with watching movies and TV, but those who have a habit of grazing during their favorite show may find it difficult to keep it under control if their viewing time spans multiple times. hours per day.
Binging also contains dangers beyond its physical body. In addition to correlations with decreased social activity and increased incidences of depression, unhealthy streaming inhibits viewer retention and critical media analysis.
Professor O’Connor believes binging promotes content “coming in with one ear and leaving the other” and notes that the extensive library of on-demand media makes it difficult for viewers to find, watch and remember interesting content. While streaming services originally spread valuable diversity in cinema, such an overload of movies at the fingertips of users can make thoughtful contemplation a lost art.
A recent survey of the Cedarville student body shows that these side effects are not confined to the general public. More than a quarter of participating students reported using streaming services three to five times per week, and over 30% estimated that they spent an average of one to two hours streaming each day. When asked about the impact of their viewing habits, 36% admitted that their time spent streaming affected their school and social life “somewhat” while over 60% denied any impact.
Obviously, what started as a side project of a DVD rental company has grown so much over the past two decades that it even permeates our cornfield-linked campus. As a Christ-centered community, we must be careful how we deal with the epidemic of frenzy.
As the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:12: “’All things are lawful for me,’ but not all are useful. “All things are legal for me”, but I will not be dominated by anything. Let’s enjoy the benefits of streaming services without letting them dominate us at the expense of our physical, mental and spiritual lives.
Josh McClain is a freshman professional writing and news design and A&E writer for Cedars. He enjoys writing stories, reading YA novels, and playing spikeball and soccer with friends.