Comcast offered its Xfinity cable customers on-demand and streaming access to complete runs of numerous series during its second annual Watchathon Week from March 31-April 5. According to the company's Vice President of Programming Andy Hunter, there was a correlation between the binge watching event and improved live ratings for several series, with the shows garnering higher ratings among Comcast customers than non-Comcast customers.
- "Comcast customers used Watchathon to catch-up on Game of Thrones in advance of the season four premiere. As a result, live ratings for the premiere were 17 percent higher in Comcast households compared to non-Comcast households across the country. Additionally, 675,000 viewers caught the premiere on Xfinity On Demand within the first three days-- growing the national audience an additional 10 percent.
- The second season of Fox’s The Mindy Project came back from hiatus during Watchathon Week. Live ratings for this episode were 60 percent higher. Even more impressive; the April 8 post-Watchathon episode had a ratings lift in Comcast households of 83 percent.
- The latest episode of FX’s Archer aired on March 31 and saw a 78 percent live ratings lift.
- The April 8 episode of NBC’s Chicago Fire saw 30 percent higher live ratings.
- The latest episode of NBC’s Grimm saw a 65 percent lift in live ratings.
- The latest episode of Fox’s breakthrough documentary Cosmos aired on Sunday, April 6 and saw 27 percent higher live ratings.
- The April 10 episode of NBC’s Parks and Recreation saw an impressive 49 percent ratings lift."
These are indeed interesting statistics that suggest that making more episodes of existing series available to consumers through on demand and internet streaming is a good strategy. There have been significant season-to-season ratings increases for several cable dramas which were widely available online for being viewing including Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. However, there are a couple reasons to regard Comcast's numbers with a bit of skepticism
First of all, Comcast cable is not available uniformly across the country. Very few residents of Los Angeles, for example, are Comcast customers. The popularity of various television shows varies from market to market. some shows appeal more to urban viewers, others to those that live in rural areas, to southerners, to Northerners etc. Chicago was the top market for the Watchathon, where it stands to reason that Chicago Fire, which films on location, might be more popular than it is in other parts of the country. Did the local Chicago ratings go up for the April 8 episode more among Comcast households than other Chicago households? Or did the rise versus the country as a whole reflect that Comcast's viewers are disproportionately likely to live in Chicago?
Second, did the Comcast households that watched the live episodes of the cited series also binge watch previous episodes during the Watchathon? If Comcast has that data, it isn't revealing it.
According to Comcast, the three most binge watched series during the Watchathon were Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and, perhaps more surprisingly The Good Wife, which may have benefited from the buzz surrounding a recent shocking plot twist.