Netflix has always been a little secretive with their data, withholding boring stuff like ratings and viewer numbers from the public in favor of focusing on content and delivery. Of course, they always had those numbers and they’ve been crunching them all along; today they gave just a little peek at how the data reflects the behavior of our new, great American pastime: binge watching.
First off, it’s not actually a habit limited to Americans though we’re the ones most saddled with the reputation as couch potatoes. (Alright, maybe Canada too, but only during hockey season.) Netflix threw data from 100 serialized TV shows across 190 countries into their number-crunch machine to look at completed viewing of the first season of shows. They analyzed the time period between October 2015 and May 2016, and threw out data from accounts that didn’t complete a full season’s viewing.
The result is a scale from “savored” to “devoured”. Savored shows are those watched less that two hours per day. Devoured are eaten in front of an open refrigerator while looking over your– oh wait, that’s something else. Ahem, devoured shows are watched more than two hours at a time. Netflix’s press release is careful to point out that where a show falls on the binge scale has no relation to its viewer numbers. Globally, people tend to take five days to watch one season at about two hours and ten minutes per day.
The actual data Netflix released was surprisingly scant considering the number of shows they studied. What they most wanted to emphasize was something that might seem common sense: high-octane shows with thriller elements engage us viscerally and drive us to more viewing time. Orphan Black, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story and Hemlock Grove are all devoured. Thought-provoking shows like House of Cards and Mad Men are savored, watched just a couple hours at a time.
That doesn’t explain shows like Breaking Bad and Orange is the New Black, however, which are not thrillers yet devoured. Or why Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt falls on the savored end of the spectrum? We just can’t get enough of Piper Chapman’s descent into thug life but find Kimmy’s sprightly enthusiasm too mind-bending? There’s a psych department thesis project in there somewhere. Netflix cites elements like social commentary, complex characters, and gorgeous period sets that help us feel sated more quickly while watching.
Implications aside, the study’s results don’t lie and thankfully, there’s something for all of us to lose our minds in once in a while. Cindy Holland, VP of Original Content at Netflix said, “Netflix helps you to find a series to binge no matter your mood or occasion, and the freedom to watch that series at your own pace – whether that’s to appreciate the drama of Bloodline or power through Orange is the New Black.”
One thing that was not addressed was shows that were released during the study period. Netflix original Jessica Jones launched with a full season in November 2015, just one month into the study period. Surely that spike in binge-watching over the first weekend should have registered it as a devoured show? So are they simply lumping it in with other Superhero Dramas on their list for simplicity, or did they do something like throw out premiere-weekend numbers? It’s simply not explained.
Here’s how Netflix parsed the data on 100 shows. The shows we drink in slowly are at the top of the list, the ones we take in through a beer funnel are at the bottom.
- Irreverent Comedies:
- Arrested Development, BoJack Horseman, Club de Cuervos, F is for Family, Love, Summer Heights High, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Wet Hot American Summer
- Political Dramas
- Homeland, House of Cards, Occupied, The Good Wife, The West Wing
- Historical Dramas
- Mad Men, Narcos, Peaky Blinders, The Americans
- Superhero Drama
- Gotham, Marvel’s Daredevil, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, The Flash
- Crime Dramas
- Better Call Saul, Bloodline, Fargo, The Blacklist, The Bridge, Twin Peaks
- Dramatic Comedies
- Flaked, Grace & Frankie, Nurse Jackie, Orange is the New Black, Parenthood, Rescue Me, Weeds
- Action & Adventure
- 24, Arrow, La Reina del Sur, Marco Polo, Outlander, Prison Break, The Last Kingdom, Turn, Vikings
- Ascension, Between, Heroes, Orphan Black, Sense8, The 100, The 4400, Under the Dome
- American Horror Story, Hemlock Grove, Penny Dreadful, Scream, The Walking Dead, Z Nation
- Bates Motel, Breaking Bad, Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, The Fall, The Following, The Killing
What do you think? Is this true to your viewing habits?