Bingeing seems to be the new way that Americans prefer do everything.
For the last week of March, Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, is collaborating with several television networks for a “watch-a-thon,” in which entire series will be available for free on demand.
Binge viewing, an internet-influenced epidemic where people spend hours catching up on series they might have missed the first time around, serves as a grand look into the future of TV viewing.
The company has convinced more than 30 TV networks to make their programming available from March 25 to the 31. More than 3,500 television episodes will be offered, according to Matt Strauss, senior vice president of digital and emerging platforms for Comcast.
“We’re at an inflection point in how people watch television,” he said.
While network behemoths like ABC and CBS generally only have the four most recent episodes of a series available for streaming, for the promotion participating networks will make the entire season available to viewers.
Comcast customers will also have free access to premium networks like HBO and Showtime which usually cost extra for the duration of the promotion. In many cases, entire histories of such shows as “Game of Thrones,” “Homeland,” and “Girls” will be available, in addition to old favorites like “Sex and the City,” and “The Sopranos.”
The experiment gets most of its resonance in the sheer size of Comcast, which owns NBC Universal. Roughly 20 percent of television-viewing Americans are Comcast customers.
For the TV networks, the experiment offers viewers the opportunity to catch up on, or become introduced to, series they may not have followed during the original airing. Shows like “The Walking Dead” are increasing in ratings mostly because people are watching past episodes and getting hooked in between seasons. The experiment also may encourage customers to pay for premium networks if they try and like series they might not have been exposed to, Strauss said.
For Comcast customers, the programs will available on smartphones and tablets as well as on TV. The company hopes to encourage greater use of its streaming apps which have been less popular than people expected. If the week is successful, networks might also be convinced to make more of their programming available on demand.