How Streaming has Changed My Viewing – and Reviewing! – Habits
by Kristin Battestella
In these instant glory days – or is that days of instant glory? – it's becoming tougher to be both a viewing consumer and a reviewing content creator. Is there enough time to both watch all I want and maintain consist professional output? Below, I've broken down how the multitude of streaming availability has affected the focus of my writing, viewing, and reviewing.
At times, I want to zone out and look for show to watch casually – movies or series that I don't intend to review with any critical eye. However, there are a lot of shows I end up not watching because I am saving them for a review focus. This dilemma leads me to viewing extremes, as sometimes I watch a lot purely for my enjoyment, resulting in a drop in my writing output. Then, I feel guilty if I'm not reviewing everything I watch. I used to have a policy when purchasing DVDs that all I watched would be critiqued, so if I comfort binge that's followed by an obsessive marathon viewing to get my analysis back on track. There should be a better balance between work and entertainment, but....
I Can't Keep Up!
Currently, between diginets, cinema, DVR, DVDs, Netflix discs and Instant Watch, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime, Starz, and Britbox – as well as free streaming channels such as The Roku Channel, TubiTV, Pub d Hub, and more – there is just too much to watch. Rather than reviewing what I want when I want, I'll rush to watch something before it expires, rotate between one program on each platform, or seasonally add or drop yet more services including Shudder, Filmstruck, and Showtime. It isn't a question of cord cutting, price per month, or yearly subscriptions anymore but rather wanting to watch something and signing up for whichever service has it – whether you already have too many things in the pile, queue, and watchlist or not because...
You Watch Something because It's There, don't Lie.
On one hand, for those of us who grew up with a wonky antenna and a dozen fuzzy channels on the dial, streaming services and all the latest technological devices provide tremendous freedom of choice. When you have Roku TVs, set top Rokus, Fire Sticks, Chromecasts, PS4, and even a VCR/DVD combo, there's no need to tune in “Same Bat Time, same Bat Channel!” However, this what you want, when you want whatever mood strikes you free reign, is deceiving, for I watch something because it is available, not because I was really looking for it. When recently drafting a horror viewing list of retro films about witches in the bayou, I browsed all the horror movies on all the streaming platforms for something that fit the bill. Rather than watching a bunch of horror movies that interested me and then finding something common between them to make a recommended list, I saw several similar movies in different places and made my review around them.
So, Streaming Begets Laziness, too.
For ages, I've felt like watching Only Lovers Left Alive again. So, am I supposed to get up and put on the blu-ray because it isn't streaming anywhere? No, because it isn't streaming anywhere, I just don't watch Only Lovers Left Alive again, no matter how much I'm hankering for it. Personally, I try not to watch something on a streaming platform if I already own it on video. What's the point of having a hard copy then, right? Unfortunately, that again means I either break an outdated rule for a spur of the moment white noise viewing, or I don't watch anything. After all....
“Read the TV Guide, you don't need a TV.”
As Grandpa in The Lost Boys said, sometimes I just end up browsing, and browsing, and browsing some more. It's like when you are in the kitchen and open the refrigerator three times in a row hoping something different will be there when you know there won't be. Sometimes I enjoy the scrolling, it's fun to add items to my already full watchlist. When passing a good show or memorable movie, it' makes me smile to remember it even if I don't queue it, much less press play. Occasionally, I'll add something to the queue just to know it is there – you don't want to lose it and that click in itself is comfort viewing without actually watching anything. Occasionally, something expires and it isn't a big deal, you can let it go because, like a rerun you expect it to reappear on another streaming channel since so many have a lot of the same thing padding their catalogs. That said, there is inevitably that time you go through every single $^(&!&@ streaming option only to proclaim there is absolutely nothing to watch! Of course, once you look at the clock and see all the time that was wasted just looking...by that point, I'm kicking myself for not watching something I could have been reviewing.
Sometimes Not Everything is Worth Watching – or Reviewing, Let's be Honest.
Recently, I'm more likely to review entire television seasons in long form and do more viewing lists of feature films instead of reviewing a motion picture in one full length essay. Sometimes, a film that's two hours or less just isn't worth the two days time to write one article about it – especially if it is a stinker. Other times, again especially with horror, I marathon too many films in a row and don't have time to write a full length piece even if one lost in the viewing shuffle is deserving of more praise. Shorter televisions shows that only have a few episodes per season or brief overall runs, however, still receive a long form eye because there is still much to discuss. Occasionally, I'll compile viewing lists of shorter shows that I deliberately chose to watch with a lighter critical focus – a low episode count or a cancellation notice means I don't have to give it as much thought, right? Of course, I'm more likely to give up on a show after only a few episodes if it doesn't immediately grab my interest. Remember, I just have so much more to watch.
Does Streaming Impatience impact My Reviewing Viewpoint?
Thus, my ever lengthening queue makes me more overly critical than I used to be, even more negative. I'm not willing to wait for a show to get good or finish a movie that's dumb. Instead of coming from a viewpoint of why a program is worthwhile, today I'm more likely to question what a program must do to keep me watching. There's no real love lost if something is bad when I've not purchased that individual movie ticket or blu-ray set, yet even when a movie or series blows my mind both in entertainment and analysis, there's still a fear of what you are missing or what else you should be watching and if it was all worth the time. When you can see something in such so good, so fast consumption, there's a hesitant search for what to watch next, and inevitably, I'm going to compare what I watch after as most likely inferior no matter how different the content. I'm almost to the point where it is easier to pick something at random – press play, make some notes, and not worry about if it was worthwhile or stinks. Then, I can be pleasantly surprised when the whim succeeds, giving birth to a rare zone out viewing that become a happy review. Who knew?
What are your thoughts on how streaming has changed your viewing habits?