Netflix and the rise of binge watching

Everyone has already found themselves in a situation where they could simply not stop watching a TV show, losing all sense of space and time.

This phenomenon has a name: binge watching. It is the consumption of episodes of a TV show or movies of a saga within a limited period of time.

This mode of consumption firstly appeared in the 1990s when the VHS was popularized. With the development of DVD, people watch episodes more quickly without the need to rewind. With the spread of the internet, downloading and VOD, binge watching has evolved and expanded.

So this is a fairly old situation, not a novelty as such, but the arrival of Netflix has favored the development of the phenomenon and accelerated it. Indeed, apart from the original productions that were met with great success, Netflix has also implemented several actions to promote consumption.

Firstly, the automatic launch of consecutive episode. The previous episode has hardly ended and the platform automatically launches after a few seconds of the next episode, pushing the user to chain views. Additionally, it is also possible to skip the credits of the show by pressing “skip intro” which allows the user to jump into the essential: the continuation of the fiction.

Finally, the release of complete seasons. Once the new season of a series comes out, all the episodes are available immediately. Comparing with big TV channels, where there is a delay between each episode. By distributing the series by season, the platform limits the frustration of its subscribers and allows them to watch the series without interruptions. This characteristic of the platform revolutionizes binge watching, which could only be practiced posteriori. It was necessary to wait until all the episodes of a series were aired to be able to practice.

In December 2013, Netflix conducted a study on binge watching among its subscribers. According to this study, “half of the viewers surveyed finish a season  in only one week.”.

Another survey of February 20, 2014 reveals that 2% of the 33.4 million US subscribers watched the entire second season of House of Cards at the weekend of its release.

In June 2016, the streaming platform was interested in the type of series that makes us the most “addicted”, so we will watch without stopping. It turns out that the consumption of series is different depending on whether it is a comedy or a thriller. The US giant analyzed the first seasons of 100 series viewed in 190 countries between October 2015 and May 2016 and defined a scale on the most addictive content. We find that thrillers is at the top of the rank, followed by horror shows, then action series, and finally satirical comedies are the ones we consume the slowest.

Last December Netflix unveiled its statistics for the year 2017 about the habits of its users. It turns out that subscribers spent 140 million hours a day on the video-on-demand platform, which represents about 160 centuries or 1 billion hours watched each week. Mexicans are the ones who spend the most time every day of a week. Among the top 3 most binge watched series are American Vandal (3%) and 13 Reasons Why.

We can clearly say that today our consumption patterns of audio-visual productions have evolved and have not escaped the phenomenon of mass consumption. Spectators became demanding, want everything faster, and are in search of sensationalism. Netflix, with its original series produced at an industrial speed, its fluid and intelligent interface, and its communication strategy tries to follow the movement and it works. In particular, the company grasped all the workings of social networks and places the user at the center of its strategy, making algorithms the heart of his business model.

For the first half of 2018, the turnover of the firm Reed Hastings rose by 40%. Almost comparable to Disney’s market capitalization, the value of its stock has increased by 9% on the stock market and now has 125 million subscribers worldwide.

Will the Netflix saga stop one day?

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