Binge-watching is the new orange. Thanks to services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO Go, more people are consuming multiple episodes of a television show in one sitting (“binge-watching”) than ever before. In fact, according to Netflix, the entire Season 2 of “Orange is the New Black” was consumed by some subscribers immediately upon its release. That’s 13 episodes in 13 hours.
The good news for marketers is that a lot of people are binge-watching in order to catch up on a show everyone else is talking about. They binge-watch the first few seasons so that they can watch the next season in “real time” when it airs.
The bad news is that binge-watching eliminates organic conversations about shows because other than “Which episode on you on?” viewers aren’t watching together. With shows like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” that are released season by season instead of episode by episode, there is no buzz each week or conversation by the water cooler the next day. Rather, people are watching on their own time, so other than the fan fare leading up to the release, it’s hard for the shows to sustain any kind of conversation. Of course, Netflix doesn’t mind since their business model doesn’t rely on advertising. Instead, they rely on the hype that occurs right before the release to create new customers. Yep, binge-watching is the new normal.
What Makes Us Do It?
What marketers will be interested in is why people binge-watch. Turns out, most of the time, it’s done accidentally. Viewers just want to watch a show or two and then suddenly it’s Sunday night and “all” they’ve done is watch “Friday Night Lights.”
Other reasons are that people are sick or injured, don’t want to wait a week to see what happens next, or are revisiting a show they’ve watched before, whether for nostalgia (Think: “Felicity”) or because the show has a complicated plot (i.e. “Lost).
It’s actually difficult to nail down which TV shows are the most-binge-watched because the data comes from so many different providers (and because Netflix doesn’t release viewership information, though they did recently say “Orange is the New Black” was watched more than “House of Cards.”). However, based on market studies and word of mouth, we’ve narrowed down 10 shows that someone (or most people) you know have binge-watched at one point in time.
1. Netflix’s “House of Cards”
Haven’t watched this one yet? Seasons 1 and 2 are available in their entirety and will only take you 22 hours to watch. Some have argued that “House of Cards” was designed to be binge-watched and wouldn’t be as popular if viewers had to wait a week between shows. Though the latter may be true, the writers did not know that the first season would be released all at once, so those shows, at least, were not written with view consumption habits in mind. However, they do admit that season 2 was written to be a “13-hour-long movie.” That’s a lot of popcorn…
2. Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black”
It’s been said that “OITNB” would not have succeeded on broadcast television because it doesn’t have the mass appeal advertisers crave.
3. AMC’s “The Walking Dead”
One of the most successful shows in the history of cable, the show has tripled its ratings in less than four years. Each new season adds millions of viewers. We suspect binge-watching is behind those numbers.
4. AMC’s “Breaking Bad”
The creator of this show says he believes they would not have reached the critical mass that they did if not for the ability for people to binge-watch past episodes. Nearly three in four members streaming the first season finished all seven episodes in one session, says Netflix.
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5. Showtime’s “Dexter”
A Slate/Survey Monkey poll listed “Dexter” as the third most popular binge-watched show (after “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black”) and some TV critics say it’s the best show to binge-watch thanks to its season-long arcs.
6. HBO’s “True Blood”
Wired says this ensemble cast vampire mystery is a “binge-watch” must this summer in order to prepare for the upcoming final season.
7. HBO’s “Game of Thrones”
Season 4 of this show everyone seems to be talking about just ended. While everyone else had to wait a week between episodes, President Obama got the screeners ahead of time. Yes, even POTUS is binge-watching.
8. ABC’s “Scandal”
It’s not just the president who binge-watches. The First Lady admitted she binge-watched what’s been called one of the most addiction shows on TV.
9. Showtime’s “Homeland”
Viewers enjoy binge-watching dramas (60%) over comedies (45%) and “Homeland” is said by many to be the perfect show to devour all at once. “Homeland” is a hyperserial (an intense and linear series-long plotline) and therefore doesn’t make much sense if viewed out of order, so like most shows on this list, it’s perfect for binge-watching.
10. “Arrested Development” (Fox and Netflix)
“Arrested Development” was shut down after its third season because “cult hits” don’t bring in advertiser dollars and because the way the show was written, sometimes jokes and gags took an entire season to play out. Not great if you have to wait a week between episodes (and months between seasons), but perfect if you’re in the mood to binge-watch. When Netflix picked it up for Season 4 (7 years later), the creator wrote the episodes keeping it mind that they would likely be consumed together. He does warn though that comedy gets less amusing after a few hours, so to “take it easy.” Good luck with that.