After instructing two groups of participants to watch three episodes of an HBO show — one group all at once and another group over three weeks — Ferchaud compared the viewing experiences between the two groups. She asked the viewers to fill out a questionnaire, and the results, she said, were surprising.
“I thought people would be more engaged and more interested if they binged the show, be more likely to share it,” she said. “I found the opposite.”
Ferchaud discovered that when viewers have time between episodes, they think about the show and its characters more. They develop deeper relationships with the characters and the plot, and they are more likely to recommend the series to friends.
A previous study found that more suspenseful and serial-style programs were more “binge-able.” But knowing that viewers may interpret their experience more positively if they watch a weekly show may alter how networks and streaming services create shows.
“If you’re an advertiser, you may not want the show to be binge-able,” Ferchaud said. “You may seek out more episodic, less suspenseful programs that people can enjoy week to week.”
Ferchaud hopes to continue this line of research and examine how viewers watch, share, talk about and enjoy new shows. She hopes future studies can mirror a realistic viewing experience better. She noted that forcing people to binge a show likely affects their enjoyment.
Today, Ferchaud is on the job market and seeking a professorship where she can continue her research, as well as teach. Life in front of the classroom has become a new passion since arriving at the University Park campus. Over the past few semesters, Ferchaud has taught COMM 190: Game and Interactive Media and COMM 118: Introduction to Media Effects.
“Not every university values teaching as much as the (Bellisario) College or I do,” she said. “There is nothing like having a student who gets into a topic that you’re interested in. If you can inspire and help them work things out, it’s awesome.”
Oliver said Ferchaud’s experience working in the lab, teaching in the classroom and collaborating with colleagues has prepped her nicely for a career in academia. Having a research topic that’s relevant to today’s media landscape only sweetens the deal.
“Arienne has already established herself as an expert within the discipline,” Oliver said. “At this early stage of her career, she has already made a splash. I can’t wait to continue to see her flourish as a scholar.”