Spoiler Alert! The phrase has become a common occurrence on countless sites and publications catering to Millennials. With the rise of time-shifted viewing and binge-watching behavior, the risk of finding out vital plot information about not only the popular show or film of the moment, but also the show/film they happen to be watching at that moment, is higher than ever. Millennials are living in fear of the spoiler.
The ability to watch shows whenever and wherever they might want to has altered both the TV landscape and viewer expectations of entertainment, and most obviously has forever changed the idea that all viewers will experience entertainment on a similar timeline. But at the same time that viewer participation has become more scattered and personalized, exposure to entertainment media has blown up. It’s The Age of the Episode Recap. Entertainment is hashed and rehashed online by professionals and average viewers alike, who react both live and after-airings to the latest twists and turns of everything from reality competitions to cliff-hanger laden dramas. Thanks to Twitter and other social media, the water-cooler is now everywhere we look.
This environment of constant spoiler risk has created a new expectation of etiquette online. Posts, articles, and videos that might contain a hint of plot points that delayed viewers haven’t seen are expected to be marked clearly with a “Spoiler Alert” warning. For some, the risk of seeing spoilers outweighs the reward of time-delayed and streaming viewing. One proud cord cutting tech writer confessed in a Gizmodo piece that he returned to cable after two and a half years partly because of the spoilers “around every corner.” But not surprisingly, more Millennials are finding hacks and tools to minimize the risk, and turning the internet into a spoiler-free zone to accommodate the way they want to watch. Here are three of the apps being used to eliminate spoiler-danger for TV viewers of the new age:
1. Netflix’s Spoiler Foiler
Breaking Bad shone a spotlight on the risk of spoilers for the modern-day viewer. The late-series success it experienced thanks to Netflix streaming might have made the final season and finale a communal experience for many, but it also meant that thousands of viewers were at risk for major spoilers as they caught up to real time. Netflix knew the frustrations of binge-watching the previous seasons of a show that was reaching a fever pitch of buzz in real time and created a solution for their users. Their Spoiler Foiler site was created specifically for Breaking Bad, and allowed users to log in to their Twitter accounts to view their feeds with any mention of the show blacked out. The app was vigilant, placing a black bar over any posts containing the words “breaking” or “bad” even if it had nothing to do with the show, and creating a safe-zone for their Heisenberg-happy binging customers.
2. Unspoiler and Silencer for Chrome
Search any media related websites these days and you are bound to find a running feed of TV show recaps from the night before—kryptonite to DVR dependent fans. Taking “Spoiler Foiler to a more customized level,” Unspoiler is a Google Chrome add-on that covers any hot topic content with a big red box and allows users to customize what is blocked with keyword settings. The app works across web content for Twitter, Facebook, and webpages, making it easy for TV procrastinators to happily browse without happening upon spoilers. Google, the master of search, also released its own Google Chrome add-on this spring called Silencer that takes blocking content as seriously as its name. The similar, keyword-based app searches Twitter and Facebook feeds for mentions and hashtags that include both TV-show titles and custom phrases like “twerk” or “burning man,” which could significantly reduce FOMO for some users. Silencer also pools related keywords into “mute packs,” allowing viewers to block multiple shows and sports teams at once and see just how much buzz they’re missing with a mute count.
3. Spoiler Shield
Sports fans who miss the big game often go to great lengths to avoid spoiling the final score and highlights until catching up on their devices, but Spoiler Shield has come to the rescue for all MLB and NFL fanatics. The app is designed specifically for social media mentions and includes shields for baseball and football along with 30 top shows including Game of Thrones, The Voice, The Bachelor, and Survivor. Developed by two young entrepreneurs, they came up with the idea after backlash abounded on the internet from spoilers for the “Red Wedding” episode of Game of Thrones. Though the golden shield blocks spoiler content, users who just can’t play the waiting game can double tap the shield to reveal the juicy news.