Netflix released new research on binge-viewing among its subscribers today, revealing that 61% of them binge-view at least 2-3 episodes every few weeks. The data adds yet more weight to the binge-viewing story line: in September Nielsen found that 88% of Netflix subscribers have watched 3 or more episodes in the same day (70% for Hulu Plus) while research from Piksel found 94% of viewers binging in one way or another. (caveat, there's some apples vs. oranges in comparing the data)
No other company has done more to promote binge-viewing than Netflix. Whereas the phenomenon started with viewers binging past seasons of shows like "Mad Men" or "Breaking Bad," Netflix has shrewdly capitalized by releasing all of its own original episodes at once, making binge-viewing a current season behavior as well. As a result, TV network executives must now ask whether their traditional approach of scheduling new episodes should be revamped.
While scheduling has numerous benefits to networks that count on ratings and ads, Netflix isn't encumbered by these considerations. Of course, viewers don't care about them either, only that they get the quickest, most flexible access to their favorite programs. Netflix found that 73% of respondents have positive feelings toward binge-viewing with 79% of them saying the shows are more enjoyable when watched this way.
Netflix included additional data in its release and even went so far as to hire a cultural anthropologist named Grant McCracken, to interpret the data. One of his key conclusions is that binge-viewing awakens couch potatoes to a higher level of engagement - a "new kind of escapism." That may feel hyperbolic, but as a repeat binge-viewer myself, I think he's on to something. Binge-viewing, not orange, is the new black.
The Netflix survey was conducted by Harris Interactive among 3,078 U.S. adults, of whom nearly 1,500 stream TV shows at least once per week.