We’ll ignore for the moment any judgments with regard to the amount of time we, as a society, collectively spend in front of one screen or another. It’s easy for some to dismiss television or the Internet outright, but the fact remains: each of these is a portal to both engaging storytelling and consuming information.
In just the last couple of years, however, a paradigm shift has been in progress that may forever change how we interact with our television and Internet. Since its invention, television has been not just the “first screen,” but rather the screen. It was the window through which people across the country received news from the rest of the world, or watched fictional dramas unfold.
Television is undeniably still an enormous part of today’s pop culture vernacular, but its dominance is in the process of being usurped by the former “second screen:” the Internet.
It used to be that the Internet consistently played second fiddle to the television; people would take to Twitter during a television event like the Super Bowl to express their feelings, hopes, or disappointments. The Internet was a useful complement to television watching, but little more.
More recently, however, the Internet has almost completely altered its role in our lives, at least where entertainment is concerned. By most accounts, the Internet is the new first screen, relegating TV to second screen status.
How did this come about? A compelling argument can be made for the proliferation of streaming services. The last few years have seen a vast number of consumers jumping ship from their cable providers, citing poor value for the money, dissatisfaction with the content offered, and even the floundering economy. Known colloquially as “cable cutters,” these brave souls have turned to streaming options to provide access to their favorite TV shows and movies.
Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video have benefited greatly from being the first-movers into this space. Even Verizon Internet has joined the fray with their Redbox Instant service. These service providers are just the beginning. However, it seems as though a new company throws its hat into the ring every week, hoping to sway the next crop of cable cutters and turn a profit.
As streaming services have become more popular, a new trend has arisen: “binge watching.” This is exactly what it sounds like: it’s the practice of watching multiple episodes (or even seasons!) of a given TV show in quick succession. With only a few exceptions, this is possible only on a streaming service such as Netflix.
After binge-watching, for example, the entire first season of Netflix’s original series House of Cards, many subscribers find it difficult to return to regular cable, whose episode pace is glacially slow by comparison. As a result, more and more people are falling away from the ritual practice of watching their favorite TV shows on their original air date, opting instead to catch up on a show after it makes its way to the consumers’ streaming service of choice.
It’s a fascinating trend, and one on which marketers and advertisers should keep a watchful eye.
*This is a guest article by Sam Melton*