The Binge Watching TV Behavior

We have all done it, well at least the vast majority of us, 80% of consumers according to a poll we ran in our panel have streamed at least multiple episodes of a TV show back to back. This behavior is new, which is part of what makes it fascinating. The binge watching experience is a hybrid between a movie and a TV show, although I’d argue it is much closer to that of the experience of a good book.

I did not use to be a big reader. Only late into my 20’s did I start reading quite heavily. My first binge reading experience came around the time the Lord of the Rings movies were about to be released. I wanted to read all the books before seeing the movies. I had always heard good things about the books but had no idea how immersed in the stories I would get. I read the first Lord of the Rings book in about a week and the other two within the next month. Luckily these books had been out for a long time, so the entire story was available for me to read. My drive to read all the books as fast as I did was that I wanted to know how the story ended. I did not want to wait because of how hooked I was on the story.

This experience was in stark contrast to my reading of the Harry Potter series where I read each book when it came out and had to EAGERLY wait a year or more for the next installment. When you get that hooked into a story, waiting is frustrating. At least to me, it was. I like to digest the whole story. Which is one reason movies are so successful yet also a let down because they have to be completed in a set amount of time.

Last year I wrote an article that was widely syndicated across different tech publications where I outlined how Netflix is a stories as a service platform. Netflix is not releasing content in a tiered fashion where one episode comes out one week and the next a week later. For Netflix, a season is a season and is released all at once. You can then consume it on your time, and the anticipation that builds for consumers is not for the individual episode but the next season. Which I’d argue at a psychological level is much more impactful and creates more anticipation in the minds of fans of the show.

Interestingly, in the same poll we ran, we asked consumers if they had watched an entire season of a show, or more, in one sitting. 65% of consumers in our poll indicated that had binge-watched at least one full season. This could be a surprising number, or not, depending on your perspective and behavior. I knew this was a common behavior but did not think it would be the majority answer from consumers in our panel.

I do believe binge watching content presents a behavioral shift that is not going to stop and will only accelerate. Which will create both challenges and opportunities for those publishers who do not embrace this model? If consumers become accustomed to this, they will expect and demand it. However, the biggest point here is how this model represents a new way to tell stories that consumers appreciate and will allow room for innovation around.

When we looked at binge watching by generations, the following chart emerges.

If you have younger kids, or millenials, it will come as no surprise that younger people prefer this behavior to consume content. Which re-enforces my thinking that over time this will become the preferred way to consume content as younger people get older and become the vast majority of valuable consumers in the market.

Ultimatlely, there is a lot of opportunity for innovation around story telling. That is what I feel the data around this behavior tells us. Consumers are ready for a new way to consume stories and now it is up to content and publishing companies to adapt and innovate.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

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