‘Savour’ to ‘devour’: where are you on the Netflix binge scale?
Binge watching is the new normal, says chief content officer Ted Sarandos
Netflix ‘Bloodline’: Ben Mendelsohn (left) and Kyle Chandler star as brothers Danny and John Rayburn. The drama was closer to the ‘savour’ than ‘devour’ end of the ‘binge scale’.
An image from the forthcoming fourth series of one of Netflix’s most-hyped shows, ‘Orange Is The New Black’
Claire Foy and Matt Smith star in ‘The Crown’, which will be added to Netflix in November. The pattern for historical dramas suggests it may have a slower ‘binge’ rate.
‘Devoured’: Gillian Anderson stars as DSI Stella Gibson in the BBC’s Belfast-set thriller ‘The Fall’, which has an audience in the US via Netflix.
“Just one more episode before bed.” What Netflix user hasn’t said that at some point?
But now the television streaming company says some show genres are more likely to prompt longer “binge” sessions than others. Thrillers, horrors and science fiction are all consumed faster than “irreverent comedies”, political dramas and historical yarns.
Netflix has produced what it calls a “binge scale” based on a study of how more than 100 serialised television series were consumed in 190 countries by users who completed the entire first season.
At the “devour” end of the scale, users watched shows with “high energy narratives” like Breaking Bad, The Killing and The Following for an average of two hours and 30 minutes per day, with the first season completed in an average of just four days.
Even at the slower, “savour” end of the scale, the average completion time was six days.
Netflix comedies such as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and “complex narratives” like those of House of Cards and Bloodline were watched for an average of one hour and 45 minutes per day.
“Binge watching is the new normal,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos.
“What the scale shows is the variation and flavour within a binge, we tend to savour shows that are dense and thought-provoking and devour those that make you gasp, jump or scream.”
Superhero shows such as Marvel’s Jessica Jones and crime dramas like Fargo were more likely to be savoured, while comedy dramas such as Orange is the New Black and action series like Marco Polo, Outlander and Vikings tipped towards the “devour” end.
The median consumption rate was two hours and 10 minutes per day, with the first season completed on average within five days.
Netflix did not give any data on those frustrated users who gave up on shows in the middle of the first season.
It also said the pace at which a series is consumed has “no relation” to its overall viewership or the likelihood that users will retain their memberships.
Netflix typically uploads series to its platform one season at a time. However, some shows that it does not itself make, including Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul and the most recent season of clone-themed science fiction show Orphan Black, are added one episode at a time.
Mr Sarandos said some viewers tuned in once a week for “appointment viewing”, in the same way that viewers of traditional linear television channels do, while others stored them up to watch “at their preferred pace”.
“It’s our goal to deliver all episodes at once, everywhere at once whenever we can. When that’s not an option we look to bring episodes to members around the world as close to their original broadcast date as possible, like we did with Better Call Saul,” Mr Sarandos said.
The binge habit “reinforces our model of releasing all episodes at once, when we can”, he added.
The BBC’s Belfast-set drama The Fall, which is on Netflix in the US, also fell into the “devour” category. The third and final series, which has some co-funding from RTÉ, is likely to air on both channels later in 2016.
Mr Sarandos highlighted Stranger Things, a 1980s supernatural thriller, and The Crown, about the coronation of Queen Elizabeth - its first UK production - as future shows that he was “excited” about.
Netflix, which has more than 81 million members worldwide, is thought to have more than 200,000 paying subscribers in Ireland.
As the platform does not carry advertising, it has never released viewership data for individual series, making it difficult to assess how popular its original productions are compared to shows that air on broadcast television.