Are Netflix Downloads The Final Nail In The Coffin For Proper TV Viewing?

Photo of Cassam Looch
Social Editor30 November 2016

With Netflix finally allowing users of the streaming service the ability to download and watch content offline, it seems like binge watching will now be an even more regular occurrence than ever before. But are we ruining films and TV shows by viewing them non-stop and on the go?

Amazon has allowed users to watch their content offline for a while now, so Netflix is actually late to the party on this front. With a wealth of movies and television programmes available at the swipe of a screen, it seems like your daily commute to work will now be immeasurably more pleasurable… yes, even travellers on London’s Northern Line will be able to crack a smile once in a while from here on in.

But are we getting TV wrong?

We’ve all done it. You hear about a ‘must-see’ show, feel like you’ve missed the boat and decide to dedicate a chunk of time to bingeing on it to catch up.

Then, when you have caught up, you wait patiently for the midnight ‘drop’ of the latest series and avoid all online interactions the following morning because you haven’t quite got past episode 7 because of that annoying thing you have to do to pay for the viewing service. What’s it called again? Oh yeah, work.

Some smart-ass has managed to squeeze in 10 hours of content into six hours somehow (that 10-second skip forward on Amazon really does have its uses), and so they become persona non grata over morning coffee breaks.

The rest of the weekend is spent furiously watching all the remaining episodes in an effort to keep up appearances and send out the ‘finally’ tweet on completion. And relax.

It’s a chore, and yet we’ve somehow allowed ourselves to be conditioned into thinking this is the way it should be. There was a time, not that long ago, where the only chance to watch a show in full would be to buy the boxset. It meant you could take your time to enjoy and absorb the material, and could actually formulate a ‘hot-take’ worth thinking about.

The average boxset would also make for a great last-minute present (hello Christmas Eve in the petrol station bargain bin) and would also look cool gathering dust on any shelf.

Binge watching takes the fun out of the viewing experience. It becomes a slog that we kid ourselves into thinking we enjoy. I’ve tried watching shows on release day, it’s part of my job after all, and by episode three I’m a spent force. The programme remains on in the background and I might tune in when something loud happens, but it never feels as good as watching in my own time and savouring the moment.

With mobile devices from phones, tablets and even watches allowing you the option of watching TV on the move, just how plausible is it that you catch every word, every nuanced scene when scrabbling to get a few minutes free?

The flexibility offered by streaming services is undeniable. We can watch Breaking Bad in bed, Outlander in the garden and even Game Of Thrones on the toilet, but let’s just avoid the back-to-back sessions in future?

Sadly, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle now and we’re destined to see the next series of Stranger Things as soon as its released so Alan in accounts doesn’t spoil it on Monday morning.