Binge-watching is believed to have originated in the 1980s, when some TV stations started featuring reruns of certain series’ episodes in marathon sessions. When DVDs became available for home viewing, their high-storage capacity allowed for entire seasons to be watched by viewers, making it easy to say to oneself “just one more.” Additionally, the cult status of such 90s shows as “Friends”, “Seinfeld” or “Sex and the City” made marathon sessions into rituals among friends and families. Since the advent of on-demand viewing and online streaming in the late 2000s, binge-watching has become a global phenomenon. Furthermore, because some companies, such as popular video-streaming service Netflix, began releasing episodes of its series in blocks, binge-watching is becoming the norm rather than the exception. In fact, according to a 2016 survey, some 90 percent of Millennials and 88 percent of those in the Gen Z category engaged in binge-watching TV series.
There is little consensus regarding how many hours of watching a TV show actually amounts to binging, but a recent Netflix survey concludes that most Americans define it as watching between two and six episodes in one sitting. Other behaviors are more extreme, involving entire seasons or even whole series over a few days.
The most popular category of series watched in back-to-back sessions by all age groups is drama (shows like “Breaking Bad”, “House of Cards” or “Empire”), followed by comedy (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” or “Modern Family”). Some of the reasons given for binge-watching include liking to see the whole story at once and not liking the suspense of waiting a week to find out what happens.