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Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway-Harris in Mad Men.
Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway-Harris in Mad Men.


How Mad Men and Walking Dead are reprogramming the ways we watch TV Add to ...

These obsessive viewers watch their top shows live and will both tweet commentary and do Internet research while they watch. For them, the water-cooler conversation happens as the show airs, and they swear they can follow the plot of Game of Thrones despite these distractions.

The appointment viewer. “Shhh. I’m watching.”

These viewers watch live (or time-shift by a mere hour or two) but don’t want to be distracted while they watch. No tweeting for them. On the other hand, they are often the best Monday-morning quarterbacks of the online TV clubs, busy discussing plot points and predicting future developments.

The time shifter. “Don’t tell me what happened! Don’t tell me what happened!”

Was it only five years ago that the PVR was the hot new gadget? Now, those who want to record shows and watch them at their leisure a few days later seem charmingly quaint. Their occasional complaints about spoilers are considered naive by groups one and two, who argue it isn’t that hard to stay off social media if you would rather not know that Lane Pryce commits suicide in Mad Men episode 12.

The binge watcher. “Cliffhangers? I don’t do cliffhangers.”

Recognizable by their pale skin at the height of summer, these types will record, rent, buy or illegally download whole seasons and watch them just after they finished airing. These marathon viewers compare cable dramas to the best movies, and demand a different kind of instantaneity: They would rather wait a season to follow the dramatic arc of Breaking Bad in its entirety than wait a week for the next plot development. Netflix catered directly to them this winter when it provided all 13 episodes of its new political drama House of Cards simultaneously.

The pirate. “Why pay when you can get it for free?”

The most aggressive of the downloaders make a fetish of not paying, illegally torrenting any show they want from the Internet, often with commercials helpfully removed, as early as a few minutes after it has completed airing on TV.

For some, it’s simply about saving money; but all demand efficiency and timeliness, refusing to wait until a broadcaster posts episodes with commercials on a website or until paid legal downloads are available at the end of the season. Another subcategory downloads foreign shows not yet available in North America, watching Downton Abbey, for example, as soon as it appears in Britain.

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