Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Binge watching actually started when box sets of entire seasons first appeared at your local HMV store. A friend lent me Seasons 1 & 2 of the Sopranos back in the late 90's and I pulled the curtains shut and felt like a capo on Tony's crew by the end of the weekend. But it recent years, it has become the way we consume the show.
While Netflix seems to love doling out all the episodes at once, there are costs to it that they probably don't care about, but will affect the legacy of these shows.
I pointed this out in an earlier blog, before the release of Season 3, but with all the episodes being released at once - mass media cannot talk about their viewing experiences without having their viewers scurry off the station to avoid spoilers. That means no "Who Shot JR?" type hysteria. Netflix is willing to give up all that free publicity in lieu of binge watching. By the way, Kristin shot J.R. and everyone watched it together. For better or worse, there's not a lot of shared Netflix experiences.
With fewer water cooler talk about what happens on these shows, you get more people missing out on subtle plot twists and less people with the ability to recall favourite episodes. Whatever happened to that Russian guy on the Sopranos? And was the Pine Barrens the best episode of the series? If Seinfeld were released on Netflix, could you control yourself to not talk about the "Master of your Domain" episode? With less people talking and recalling the finer points of each episode, viewers are less likely to fall in love with characters on the show. And that will affect its legacy.