Netflix likes to watch you watching Netflix
Netflix has released a set of data showing when people get “hooked” on shows available on the streaming service.
The company defines “hooked” as the episode after which 70 percent or more of users in 20 different countries went on to complete that show’s first season. It only took two episodes of “Stranger Things” and “The Get Down” for users to commit to a full run, for instance, while “Fuller House” (four episodes), “Making a Murderer” (four) and acquired shows “Gilmore Girls” and “Jane the Virgin” (seven each) took longer.
The study is a follow-up to a similar one in 2015, which showed the same commitment points for shows like “Breaking Bad,” “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black.”
Per usual, Netflix does not release viewing data, though it notes the “hooked” episode “had no correlation to total viewership numbers or season attrition.” Nor does it specify whether, say, “Gilmore Girls” viewers watched the first seven episodes straight through. Presumably that’s the case; we’ve asked Netflix for clarification but hadn’t heard back as of posting time.
Netflix also correlates some big events in the “hooked” episodes — Brendan Dassey’s interrogation in “Making a Murderer” episode 4, Rory’s first kiss in “Gilmore Girls” episode 7 — but puts a big caveat on whether those events were actually what caused viewers to commit. So while the headline to its release says “Netflix knows why” you committed to a full season, the explanation of the study’s methodology contradicts it: “While the Netflix research did confirm episodes, it didn’t indicate specific plot points.”
What this and the prior study do tell us, if not overtly, is that Netflix very closely scrutinizes what and how its subscribers watch its content. As much as it’s a company that makes content, it’s a company that collects data (and occasionally releases snippets of that data publicly to burnish its business model).
It’s the company’s prerogative to collect that data — it’s in the end user license agreement. It’s probably a necessity too, since Netflix is investing billions of dollars in making and acquiring shows and movies so you will keep giving it your eight or 10 or 12 bucks a month.
The binge model of releasing shows has obviously been a winner for Netflix. It knows because it sees what you’re doing.