US TV shows, ads to get on binge-watching bandwagon
US NETWORKS are changing the way they develop and release new shows, and even commercials, as they seek to adapt to new TV viewing habits and profit from the "binge-watching", made popular by video-streaming services like Netflix.
The changes could help offset declining audiences and the trend known as "cord cutting" as a growing number of Americans opt to go without traditional cable or satellite television service and rely instead on Internet streaming video.
Viacom's TV Land network is developing more serialised programming where the plot unfolds with each episode, and recently changed the storyline of a new show to promote bingeing.
TV executives are also working with advertisers to change commercials so bingeing viewers stay engaged. Experiments include making brands part of the show.
CBS, meanwhile, is studying whether commercials should be serialised to tell a story.
The changes reflect a realisation that fewer people, particularly younger viewers, watch shows when they air and, instead, binge-watch series like Netflix's House Of Cards or Orange Is The New Black.
Networks used to cringe at serialised shows because they did not lend themselves well to syndication. Out-of-order reruns can be confusing so developers preferred series, such as The Big Bang Theory or NCIS, which wrap up a story in each episode.
But with the rise of binge-watching, TV networks see a chance to hook viewers through cliffhangers.
They make batches of current episodes available on-demand through cable boxes or online apps, and sell them later to the likes of Netflix.
Forty-six per cent of millennials - the 18-to-34 age group - watch shows after they air, said media researcher Comscore.
And 42 per cent of viewers binge-watch multiple episodes of a show, one to two times per month.
It all comes down to networks realising that streaming video has become one of broadcast television's biggest threats, and potentially its salvation, said Dave Morgan, chief executive of Simulmedia, a New York-based ad tech firm. "If they don't get viewership, they don't get paid," he added.