Overcoming the unitary exploration of binge-watching: A cluster analytical approach

J Behav Addict. 2019 Sep 1;8(3):586-602. doi: 10.1556/2006.8.2019.53. Epub 2019 Sep 20.


Background and aims: Binge-watching (i.e., watching multiple episodes of a TV series in one session) has recently become standard practice among TV series viewers; this expansion generates concerns regarding the potential negative outcomes associated with this habit. However, the investigation of its psychological correlates remains fragmentary, with few initial studies a priori conceptualizing this behavior as a new addictive disorder. This study explored these psychological correlates using cluster analysis of binge-watching behavior based on three key psychological factors: motivations, impulsivity, and emotional reactivity.

Methods: An online survey was completed by 4,039 TV series viewers. Data were analyzed using hierarchical and non-hierarchical cluster analyses, the validity of the clusters being finally determined through mutual comparisons with a selection of external correlates.

Results: Four clusters were identified: recreational TV series viewers (presenting low involvement in binge-watching), regulated binge-watchers (moderately involved), avid binge-watchers (presenting elevated but non-problematic involvement), and unregulated binge-watchers (presenting potentially problematic involvement associated with negative outcomes).

Discussion and conclusions: This study underlines the heterogeneous and multidetermined nature of binge-watching. Our findings suggest that high engagement in binge-watching is distinct from problematic binge-watching, thus reinforcing the notion that conceptualizing binge-watching as an addictive disorder is of low relevance and might actually lead to the overpathologization of this highly popular leisure activity.

Keywords: TV series; addictive behaviors; behavioral addictions; binge-watching; cluster analysis; impulsivity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Behavior, Addictive / classification
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motion Pictures*
  • Screen Time*
  • Television
  • Young Adult

Grant support

Funding sources: The work of Pierre Maurage (Senior Research Associate) is funded by the Belgian Fund for Scientific Research (FRS-FNRS, Belgium).