I’m not sure that decision anxiety is the sole or even primary source of ‘prestige television’. After all, a shift toward a preference for binge-watching (and the type of show that gets better when marathonned rather than getting worse) dates to the first instances of widespread time-shifted home viewing. Buffy replaced Kolchak in the public consciousness because Kolchak was too formulaic to watch in season-long chunks and networks wanted to hype new seasons with marathon reruns of previous seasons — and because Buffy was getting released on DVD. Netflix and other streaming services upped the ante in a UI way, but not via poor UI design: Netflix doesn’t update their catalog every time an episode comes out but instead every time a season comes out (sometimes with a multi-year delay), so binge-watching is the only way to watch that doesn’t involve either using another service that updates faster or forcing yourself to keep to a weekly schedule; however, unlike buying a DVD boxed set, queuing up a series on Netflix doesn’t cost any more than not doing so. Thus, a mainstream audience learned what the anime bootleg fansub community learned ten years earlier: when you can watch a whole season of a show in one sitting with no penalty for dropping it in the middle, doing so is for a large subset of shows — those shows that gain rewatch value by focusing on complex, intricate, and detailed plots and character arcs rather than going for a casual prime-time-TV audience with formulaic structures, running gags, and ripped-from-the-headlines topicality — will be far more enjoyable than watching an episode a week.

You’re absolutely right about Netflix’s UI, though. It’s awful.

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Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net

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