Binge watchers want an entire series at their fingertips — or else, says new study

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As services like Netflix and Hulu have led to a binge-watching TV culture, entertainment execs want to understand exactly how people binge watch. Conviva, a “video optimization provider” which works with media companies and over-the-top (OTT) broadcasters like HBO, Sky, and Foxtel, surveyed 750 binge watchers to get a better understanding of their habits. The company found that most binge-watchers watch one show at time, want an entire series at their fingertips, and are quick to decide whether they’ll commit to a show or not.

While we all have our definitions of gorging on a particular show, Conviva defines the practice as viewing an entire season in a short period of time. Binge-watchers are often seen as the most rabid fans of any given show, and are becoming increasingly fundamental for a show’s long-term success — inside the world of streaming, and out. Conviva takes the binge-watchers’ significance one step further, claiming the group is “the rock upon which the next generation of TV is founded.” Conviva estimates the total number of bingers at a whopping 115 million.

While binging has increasingly gained popularity, the firm notes that it’s not easy to convince bingers to watch a new show. According to the survey, 75 percent of the participants said that they would stop watching an “inadequate” show in 4 minutes or less. Further, the largest portion of binge watchers in the study (41 percent) watch only one series at a time, and 87 percent watch three or fewer episodes in one sitting.

As for how bingers get their fix, surprisingly, most (60 percent) still watch on their computer. In comparison, 37 percent binge watch via video-on-demand through their pay TV subscription, 37 percent use a connected device like an Apple TV or Roku, and 32 percent binge on a tablet. Viewers tend to use more than one device to binge, as well, switching from, say, their computer to a tablet.

Binging hit the mainstream around the same time OTT providers like Netflix began releasing entire series at the same time, so it’s not surprising that these viewers want to watch a show now — or else. The study found that if an episode of a series is unavailable, 42 percent will just start another series rather than looking elsewhere for the episode. And if the viewer starts a new series, it’s less likely that they’ll come back to the previous choice: If a viewer stops binge-watching before the end of a series, 55 percent said they may not return to it later.

In a world with constant distractions, the study’s findings aren’t too surprising. But, as TechCrunch notes, they certainly depict how difficult it may be for networks to keep audiences engaged when they limit the number of episodes available through streaming services. Perhaps that’s why traditional networks have begun to try new tacks to get viewers engaged, including NBC’s recent strategy of releasing its new David Duchovny-led series, Aquarius, all in one bunch online after the first episode aired on traditional TV.

The study offers plenty to chew on for services streaming services, and traditional pay TV providers alike. But one thing’s for certain: Binge watchers are forever changing TV — not only in the way it’s consumed, but also in how it’s released. It may not be long before all networks follow the Netflix way. Binge on!

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