Netflix offers rare peek at its users' viewing habits

Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) has been notoriously tight lipped about the way its subscribers use the service--so much so that the companies who make the shows people watch on Netflix sometimes complain about the lack of information they get back about viewing.

Netflix corporate headquarters

(Source: Netflix)

So it is notable that Netflix talked up some of its subscribers' habits this week. Those habits shouldn't surprise anyone who uses Netflix regularly or knows someone else who does. Some Netflix viewers like to binge on TV shows.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Netflix looked at a group of its users who had finished a complete season of a show within a month and measured how they viewed 10 different TV series (Netflix didn't say which series). For one drama, which lasted 13 episodes, a quarter of the viewers watched the entire season in two days. Almost half finished within a week. For a 22-episode season of a sitcom, 48 percent watched the entire season within a week.

Most of those viewers also watched these shows in series--as in one series at a time. Rather than traditional TV viewers who might watch an episode of "Revenge" one night and an episode of "Scandal" another night, Netflix's viewers largely binged on one show before moving on to another. They'd have to in order to fit so many episodes of the same series into such a tight time frame.

Netflix also hired some outside parties to study online video viewing behavior. Harris Interactive surveyed more than 3,000 adults last month about their habits on Netflix's behalf. It also hired Grant McCracken, a cultural anthropologist, to interview TV viewers around the U.S. and Canada about their habits.

McCracken said three factors are at play in the rise of so-called "binge" viewing of TV series: the economy, the rise in quality of TV productions, and the explosion of digital platforms that allow for such viewing. "Getting immersed in multiple episodes or even multiple seasons of a show over a few weeks is a new kind of escapism that is especially welcomed today," he said in a press release.

For more:
- read the press release 
- The Wall Street Journal had this report (sub. req.)

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