Why Netflix is distancing itself from the term “Binge-watching”
Turn out, the term might have a negative impact on customers’ perceived value of the service.
It was recently revealed (accidentally by Guy Pierce) that Netflix is instructing cast members of Netflix Originals to not say the words “binge-watching” when doing press junkets for their shows. Wait, what? Netflix not only coined the phrase but is responsible for its integration into popular culture. So why on earth would they not want to use those words? You might be forgiven for thinking that Netflix is going to stop releasing all episodes at once or somehow inhibit the ability to watch a season in one go. But you’d be wrong. The reason for the change is more nuanced than that.
The origins of the term “binge-watching.”
In 2011, when I first heard the words “binge-watching” uttered at Netflix, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My immediate reaction was that it was a horrible term. After all, the only association I had with the word “binge” wasn’t “watching,” it was “purge.” I thought that if we used that in consumer-facing materials we were going to pay a big price for it.
But I was wrong. So very, very wrong.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings (to the best of my knowledge) coined the phrase because that is exactly how people were watching episodic content on Netflix. One-after-the-other.
Except it didn’t begin in the streaming era. The earliest signs of this behavior showed up when Netflix was still just DVDs-by-mail. HBO had begun releasing box sets of their hit shows like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under on disk sets. Obviously, the entire season wouldn’t fit on just one. And, with people able to have three DVDs out at a time, you could have three of the four discs for Season 2 of a show at home ready and waiting. Sure enough, people talked about putting a disc in to watch one episode only to blow through all three on the disc. Maybe even start on disc two.