Binge watching — the data

Binge watching — the data revealed

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Binge watching — what does the data reveal?

Last month we discussed whether or not binge watching was a good idea. Inevitably the answer was it depends and choice is good. This month we thought we’d take the perspective of a streamer, and see what the data says. If you’re a regular, you’ll know we like the Nielsens, thought they are only for the US. Even so, they do tell a story.

What’s our approach?

It’s widely known you can use a group of numbers to prove almost anything. In a perfect experiment, you’d take two copies of the planet Earth, show one copy a show week by week and the other the same show available all at once. You’d make sure no other shows came along, and avoid big holidays. In other words, you can’t do a simple science experiment. You can’t directly compare a binge release show such as Ozark with a gradual release show such as The Book of Boba Fett. It’s naive to just compare a Netflix show with a Prime Video show — even if the shows attract similar audiences (how to prove?) there’s a scale factor in the favour of Netflix with (currently) the largest subscription base.

What you can do is compare a show to itself, and look at how it changes week on week. You can even attempt some normalisation of the data by calling the data in week 1 100 and seeing how the number changes week on week. Here’s an example with the most recent runs of Cobra Kai and Emily in Paris (both on Netflix):

Show Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5
Cobra Kai 2423 2153 1038 670 395
Emily in Paris 938 1110 553 357 248

Actual Nielsen data for the shows

Show Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5
Cobra Kai 100 89 43 28 16
Emily in Paris 100 118 59 38 26

Normalised performance

Here you see Emily in Paris gets a frequently seen second week peak, unlike Cobra Kai. In relative terms to its week 1 performance (if it means anything), Emily in Paris actually stayed strong — or you could argue a lot of Cobra Kai fans watched the show as soon as they could.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)

Marvel Hawkeye
Marvel Hawkeye

There’s an interesting case of the MCU shows. They are all released Wednesdays via Disney+ and to an order of approximation, might attract a similar audience (though WandaVision is a rather different idea to the yet to be released Moon Knight.) Here’s some normalised data:

Show Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8
Falcon & Winter Soldier 100 127 127 151 173 161 74
Hawkeye 100 66 62 68 110 63
Loki 100 121 98 111 148 138 53 25

MCU shows normalised

From this, Hawkeye had a very different profile to the others, but all exhibit a rise then fall across several weeks. Weekly release generates interest for longer, though less of it in most cases.

Some big binge releases

The Witcher season 2 official trailer
The Witcher

Here’s a small selection of big Netflix releases:

Show Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9
Ginny & Georgia 100 122 76 57 41 31 20
Squid Game 100 205 190 142 122 64 42 27
Virgin River 100 146 88 54 38 29 24 20 16
The Witcher 100 125 83 50 28 21 14

Netflix shows normalised

Yet more evidence of the unusual nature of Squid Game, but look at Ginny & Georgia, Virgin River and The Witcher (these are all the most recent releases). The curve is very similar, relative to the Week 1 viewing audience. Perhaps this is how Netflix predicts a total audience for a show and has a leading indicator suggesting a show might not get a renewal. We shall keep watch!