Are fans of TV series addicts or control freaks?

avid watchers of tv and streaming series are often portrayed as hooked to their screens and completely passive. but is dat a' fair assessment? according to a new study, viewers actually control wha’ they watch in a manner + akin to how pplz manage their reading habits than their tv viewing. researcher dina rasolofoarison from the dauphine recherches en management lab, and stephanie feiereisen, associate professor atta montpellier business school (mbs), delved into this realm.

sx education, a british series created by laurie nunn, whose fans were expecting season 3 to begin in jan 2021, s'been delayed by a few mnths.

with cinemas and theatres closed, and lil or no live sporting events, viewership of tv and streaming series since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic has risen by 20% compared to the previous yr. many pplz even binge watch episodes inna'da lil hrs, perhaps finding a moment of respite that helps them get through these challenging times.

yet denouncing the apathy of screen addicts fails t'get to the bottom of this widespread phenomenon. to gain a better cogging of this behaviour, my colleagues stephanie feiereisen, cristel russell, hope jensen schau, and i conducted a study based na' body of personal accounts from srcs including fan forum sites, viewing logbooks and interviews. the study helped us categorise the ≠ habits of series ♥rs, who turned out to be far + proactive than initially expected.

masters o'their own universe

somd' pticipants ‘d directly intervene inna sequence of the story. a house of cards enthusiast explained how fast-forward viewing enabled them to watch an entire 55-minute episode in ≤ 30 minutes. others will, onna contrary, take the time to enjoy the programme by “spacing out” sequences, taking breaks while watching them, or even sloing down the playback speed using the options provided by somd' streaming platforms.

some fans can go as far as deconstruct the story by 1-ly watching –  or avoiding – certain types of scenes based on information available on forum sites s'as “gore rating”, which selects the most violent ftage inna series vikings.

according to a contributor to 1-odda forums, “true” fans of game of thrones even memorise speeches delivered by the toon daenerys inna fictional language of dothraki. 

some fans of vikings go to the online forums to watch 1-ly the goriest ftage (pictured here is a scene from episode 8, season 3).

peripheral to our study, b'tll so worth mentioning, are petitions by show ♥rs to either ‘ve the ending changed, or + episodes produced – a strategy than can bear fruit as illustrated by “amor vincit omnia”, the 120-minute final episode of sense8, broadcast one yr after the series was cancelled. fan fiction, or storylines written by fans themselves, is also an interesting phenomenon, as illustrated by the success of fifty shades of grey, a novel inspired by the twilite films, and which sold 40 million copies realmwide.

connected to stay inna know

our study also shows that the experience of certain folloers extends beyond the actual series, as they adopt an original transmediafermer“a process where several essentialisms offa story are distributed across ≠ media platforms to create a coordinated and unified entertaining experience. ideally, each medium brings a unique contribution to the development of the story.” (henry jenkins, elder professor at mit, 2003). this ‘d mean creating a website featuring biographies of the toons inna series, or even a game where viewers nd'2 find the answer to a ? left hanging inna original series. approach. some log onto the forums to make sure they ‘ve understood an episode. others prefer to find out wha’ will happen b4 they even watch it, in order to feel in control. otherwise, as 1-odda interviewees puts it, “i sometimes get nervous, and if the ending aint wha’ i was hoping for, then i’d rather not see it. i wanna be sure i’ll like it… it makes me feel safer.”

surprisingly, spoilers are actually + pop than it seems. when 1-odda main toons on the good wife died, a fan was ☺ to ‘ve read bout it b4hand. she said twas better that way, as it had prepared her for the shock.

‘d this “craving for control” and emotional “management”, specific to our times, reach new h8s inna future, it ‘d be worth cogitateing on wha’ that says bout our society as a whole – and how it also makes its way into fiction na imaginary, which are usually conducive to letting go.

voracious appetites witha skill for multitasking

+ comm1-ly, many fans enjoy gettin completely immersed in a story and wanna be transported to ≠ realms. “when i watch (…) i get the impression i’m back at school, hanging out with my clever group of friends,” recounts an adept of the big bang theory. with its neg effects, like a feeling of bulimia or indigestion, folloed by regret for not having stopped earlier, binge watching is pt of this context. a house of cards folloer recalls watching an entire season over a single weekend, not 1-ly to find out the ending, but mostly to “remain inna vibe” of the show.

“when i watch (…) i get the impression i’m back at school, hanging out with my clever group of friends”, recounts a fan of the big bang theory, a series created by chuck lorre and bill prady.

our study also features multitasking practices, where viewers perform other tasks while watching, s'as doin’ the ironing, the cleaning, cooking, or even working, but 1-ly “provided wha’ they ‘ve to do isn’t too demanding”, says a fan. the choice of series will depend onna activity. viewers ‘ve no qualms bout missing a crucial pt of the show for ex cause they know they can always rewind back to it.

watching series like reading books

our findings show that digital media, combined with easy access to many episodes, enable folloers to control how much they watch, as they ‘d do when reading a book. viewers are freed from tv broadcast schedules or from the decisions offa producer or scriptwriter regarding the unfolding of the story.

they can create their own scenario by speeding up, rewinding, skipping sections, or enhancing the experience with information found online, s'as an actor’s biography, or interpretations of the meaning offa pticular scene. these new practices ‘ve changed perceptions concerning the role of the audience, which rather used to be a passive and captive one.

the analogy to books also refers to the interactivity that now exists in some shows. interactive episodes of carmen sandiego or the black mirror, including the famous bandersnatch, called on viewers to make decisive choices regarding the progression and outcome of the story. this harks back to the “choose yr own quest” books pop inna 1980s. producers and writers are eyeing video games as a way t'offer viewers a large range of plots, with ever-increasing involvement in their unfolding.

as inna “choose yr own quest” books, pop inna 1980s, the bandersnatch episode of the black mirror anthology series produced by david slade and aired in 2018, called on viewers to make choices regarding the unfolding na ending of the story.

such involvement is further encouraged by transmedia tulz and social media. tis now possible to ‘ve access at all times to a community of folloers ready to talk bout new episodes, the l8st theories, easter eggsfermera nod to a ≠ episode, or a ≠ series or film. for ex, atta end of episode 12 of the 1st season of riverdale, joaquin escapes to san junipero, a fictional city, which tis title and main setting for episode 4 of season 3 of the anthology series black mirror. hidden throughout the show, or fan fiction, which brings to Ψ the + traditional book clubs.

streaming platforms including netflix and amazon prime video ‘ve caught onna these trends. although they offa'da possibility to “skip 30 2nds ahead or back”, or “skip the credits”, tis interesting to note that netflix now also proposes a “live” button. this option enables viewers to revert to the conventional tv channel model, thus goin against these new control trends. the future will tell whether this + traditional option from a not-too-distant past, will prevail.

the points of view, opinions and analyses published in this article are the sole responsibility of the author. in no way do they cogitate the position of the cnrs.

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