Netflix Studied Your Binge-Watching Habit. That Didn’t Take Long.
At a time with more scripted television than ever, how long does it take to finish a season of a show?
According to Netflix, not much time at all.
Subscribers who finish the first season of a show generally do so in a week, Netflix says. And those viewers are dedicating a significant amount of time to do it: They watch about two hours a day.
These are some of the findings from a study Netflix released Wednesday after tracking its global base of subscribers and how they watched the first seasons of more than 100 television series during a recent seven-month stretch.
“After three years of studying original series releases and nine years of streaming over all, we can now identify some patterns, finally,” Cindy Holland, the vice president for original content at Netflix, said in an interview.
“We’ve gotten past, ‘The binge watch, it happens!’ Now we’re trying to distinguish that different series are consumed at different rates,” Ms. Holland said.
Using median figures, the findings reveal that some shows are consumed quickly, while others are viewed at a slightly slower clip. The stuff viewers lap up? Horror and thrillers. The shows that take them slightly longer? Political dramas and sophisticated comedies.
Here are some of the trends Netflix identified among first-season viewers:
The Very Fast Binger.
How quick: The median amount of time for a user to finish a season is four days. Time spent watching each day is about two hours and 30 minutes.
Genre types: Horror, thrillers, sci-fi.
• “Breaking Bad” • “Sons of Anarchy” • “The Fall” • “The Walking Dead” • “American Horror Story” • “Orphan Black”
These kinds of shows “were truly propulsive, straight-up genre stuff,” Ms. Holland said. “These are the ones that people push through much faster and not necessarily have to think about the issues or unpack all the jokes or take a break from the big drama moment.”
The Fairly Quick Binger.
How quick: The median amount of time users take to finish a season is five days. Time spent watching each day is about two hours.
Genre types: Dramatic comedies, crime dramas, superhero shows.
• “Fargo” • “The Blacklist” • “Orange Is the New Black” • “Nurse Jackie” • “Marvel’s Jessica Jones”
The Slightly More Relaxed Binger.
How quick: The median amount of time to finish a season is six days. Time spent watching each day is about one hour 45 minutes.
Genre types: Political dramas, irreverent comedies, historical dramas.
• “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” • “Arrested Development” • “House of Cards” • “Homeland” • “The West Wing” • “Mad Men”
When jokes from a show like “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” are being fired at a machine-gun rate, people tend to take more time between episodes to digest them, Ms. Holland said. And the company found that with political dramas like “House of Cards” and “The West Wing,” viewers tend to “take a breath,” she said.
Netflix’s study included current shows (“Fargo”) and those off the air for some time (“The West Wing”). The streaming service studied only serialized shows and programs that were globally available on the service (Netflix has more than 81 million users). The study covered viewing habits from October 2015 to the beginning of May. Subscribers who did not finish the first season of a show were not included.
While Netflix contends that the binge model is what viewers want, some traditional network and cable executives continue to argue that their week-to-week rollout of original programming keeps their shows in the cultural conversations for months at a time. Bingeing is obviously an option at other streaming services; several contacted Wednesday did not have comparable data, or did not respond to requests for it.
But Ms. Holland said the study proved to the company that, yes, Netflix viewers were inclined to binge, and reinforced the company’s faith in its policy of releasing all the episodes of an original series at once.
And because the study is based on rookie seasons, what happens after?
“The general trend we noticed is that subsequent seasons are consumed even faster than the preceding seasons,” Ms. Holland said.