U.S. TV networks embrace 'binge-watching,' taking cue from Netflix

Fri Mar 11, 2016 1:04am EST
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By Jessica Toonkel and Lisa Richwine

(Reuters) - U.S. 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 Inc's TV Land network is developing more serialized programming where the plot unfolds with each episode, and recently changed the storyline of a new show to encourage binging.

Time Warner Inc's Turner Broadcasting System in January launched its new comedy "Angie Tribeca" by airing the entire 10-episode season in a 25-hour "binge-a-thon" on TBS. A third of viewers were new to the network.

TV executives are also working with advertisers to change commercials, so binging viewers stay engaged. Experiments include making brands part of the show on Turner. CBS Corp, meanwhile, is studying whether commercials themselves should be serialized to tell a story.

The changes reflect a realization 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."

"The streaming platforms have created a more competitive environment and we all need to deliver better," said David Levy, president of Turner.

Networks used to cringe at serialized shows because they did not lend themselves well to syndication. Out-of-order reruns can be confusing, so program developers preferred series such as CBS hits "The Big Bang Theory" or "NCIS," which wrap up a story in each episode.   Continued...

The Netflix logo is shown in this illustration photograph in Encinitas, California October 14, 2014.  REUTERS/Mike Blake