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All about the binge: New Netflix data shows which episodes get us hooked

Do you recall when you first got hooked on Breaking Bad? Was it the moment Walter White met Jessie Pinkman? Or maybe you didn’t quite feel it until he opted to shave his head and metaphorically transform into Heisenberg? Netflix conducted a study to help try and pinpoint that very moment – or at least episode – when viewers decided a show was worthy of binging.

Netflix analyzed streaming data pulled from various subscribers around the world who started watching season one of a selected series between January and July of this year. When it comes to AMC’s Breaking Bad, the data pointed to episode two of the show. And Netflix predicts that it might be the striking moment (spoiler alert) when Krazy 8’s disintegrating body falls through the ceiling, along with the bathtub, that got viewers hooked. How could you not, after all, tune in to find out how that big mess will be cleaned up, in more ways than one?

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With Netflix original series Orange is the New Black, the data circled episode three of the first season that set the hook. The moment the show got the binge-worthy seal of approval? Netflix predicts it may have been when Crazy Eyes’ infatuation with Piper led her to throw a pie to defend her honor. Would Piper give in to the inmate’s advances? And if not, how could she possibly fend her off?

Another popular show that screams for binging is Showtime’s Dexter, and, according to Netflix’s analysis, the episode that led to a rhythmic continuation of viewing of the full season (or series!) was number three. The reason? It may very well be the scene in which the vigilante killer at the heart of the series reminisces about his very first kill. How could you not want to feast on more after that? It could have also been the Ice Truck Killer’s menacing ways and creepy gifts that got viewers wanting more.

While the research could not really tell what exact plot point got viewers hungry for more, those noted above are pivotal parts of the plot, and likely contributed to the attraction.

So how did Netflix conclude these were the episodes that got viewers hooked? The streaming TV service reports that 70 percent of viewers who watched the aforementioned episodes went on to rapidly complete the entire first season of each show.

The most interesting takeaway from this, Netflix suggests, is that first impressions aren’t really what matter the most. While the pilot episode is critical in drawing viewers’ in, it’s subsequent episodes that can really get them on board for the long-haul. And that’s where Netflix’s strategy of dropping all episodes of a single season simultaneously comes into the picture.

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“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,” says 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.”

Grace and Frankie creator Marta Kauffman adds that the Netflix format of offering all episodes at once allows for storylines to follow a more natural pace, since you know you have the audience’s undivided attention. With her new Netflix original series, for example, episode four is pegged as the turning point, as the title characters are forced to “confront their fear, anger, and uncertainty head on.”

Across the 20 shows analyzed, Netflix says the results were relatively consistent around the world, though there were a few slight geographic differences. For example, the Dutch tend to fall in love with series the fastest, getting hooked one episode ahead of most countries, regardless of the show. Germans seemed to fall for Arrow much quicker than other shows, while subscribers in France were hooked quickly on How I Met Your Mother. It seems those in Brazil couldn’t wait to see more of Better Call Saul one episode earlier than those in Mexico.

And who has the greatest binge-watching will power? That appears to be those in Australia and New Zealand, who didn’t quite get hooked on a show until an episode or two later than the rest of the world. This was actually consistent across all shows.

The hooked moment, Netflix adds, had no correlation to audience size or attrition, regardless of show, episode number, or country.