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The First One's Free: Netflix Reveals It Knows Exactly How Long It Takes To Get You Hooked

By Vivian Kane | Streaming | September 23, 2015 |

By Vivian Kane | Streaming | September 23, 2015 |

Have you ever noticed how similar the language we use to talk about television is to that we also use for getting wasted? Whatever you drug of choice is— booze, harder stuff, primetime dramas— we talk about “binging” and being “hooked.” I spent all last week completely addicted to Playing House, for instance, binging to catch up. And wouldn’t you know it, just like your friendly neighborhood dealer, Netflix has strategies for getting you hooked and cashing in on your need.

Netflix has just released a study revealing that they’re maybe farther inside our heads than we knew. And while this may seem more than a bit Big Brothery, it hopefully tips further in the direction of ‘fascinating behavior study’ than ‘GET OUT OF MY HEAD.’ According to Netflix, they can pinpoint the exact moment (or at least the episode) where you became hooked on your favorite show.

Netflix analyzed its global streaming data across the inaugural seasons of some of today’s most popular shows - both Netflix original series and shows that premiered on other networks - looking for signals that pointed to when viewers became hooked. It turns out that when commercial breaks and appointment viewing are stripped away and consumers can watch an entire season as they choose, you can see fandom emerge. That is, 70% of viewers who watched the hooked episode went on to complete season one or more poetically, when members were hooked and there was no turning back.

As it turns out, while pilot episode ratings may be essential for the survival of a new show on regular television, real fandom is a slower burn, and may sneak up on you. As they put it,

Given the precious nature of primetime slots on traditional TV, a series pilot is arguably the most important point in the life of the show,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer for Netflix. “However, in our research of more than 20 shows across 16 markets, we found that no one was ever hooked on the pilot. This gives us confidence that giving our members all episodes at once is more aligned with how fans are made.

In short, whether or not people watch a pilot episode is no indication of whether or not they’ll stick with it. But there IS a point at which they can tell you’re there to stay. Here’s what Netflix found in regard to how many episodes of a show it took for you to get hooked. (Click to embiggen)


Basically, if you made it to episode 4 (of ten) of Better Call Saul, you were in it to the end. Plenty of people didn’t find episodes 1 - 3 interesting enough to continue, but if you made it to the hook point, you were theirs. Breaking Bad, on the other hand, was so incredible, that if you didn’t give up after the pilot, and at least watched the second episode, you were more likely than not to watch the next 60, all the way to the end of the series. This is even more impressive for shows like How I Met Your Mother, which had a total of 208 episodes, but only took 8 to get you hooked. I, myself, never made it all the way through the series, but for most of you, if you made it to episode 8, you watched the next 200.

This information is a pretty cool look into our binge watching habits, but ultimately it has me curious about more shows we watch. When Friends was first on, I made it to season 8, and when the show came to Netflix this spring, I tried a rewatch again, determined to make it to the end. Once again, I just couldn’t get past season 8. What’s the show you got the farthest into and never finished?

Via /Film, where you can also read the Netflix press release in its entirety.

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