There’s No Such Thing as Too Much TV

Subscription video on-demand has afforded viewers endless content choices and complete control over their viewing experience.

Today, viewers can watch when, where and how they choose – whether its tuning in live to the breakout broadcast drama, re-watching the finale of the nostalgia sitcom classic, or squirreling away new episodes for one blissful binge session like 89% of Hulu viewers confess to – there are more methods to watch than ever before.

People Can’t Get Enough TV

Hulu viewers are watching, on average, 10 different shows at a time. What shows are these viewers tuning-in for? With endless content choices and control over their viewing experience we uncovered a few statistics that may surprise even the most dedicated television watchers:

Binge Viewing Redefined

By definition, “binge” is a short period devoted to indulging in an activity in excess. But how long is a short period? Is a binge session determined by how long you watch or by the number of episodes you watch in one sitting?

Hulu viewers indicate that binge viewing is determined by the number of episodes watched in a single sitting, not in terms of time spent watching. According to 64% of viewers polled, bingeing occurs when a viewer indulges in at least 3 to 5 episodes of content back-to-back.  And for 15% of viewers polled, also known as the very committed minority, bingeing consists of watching 10 or more episodes in a single sitting – that’s essentially an entire season in some cases.

Eighty-nine percent of Hulu viewers report that they binge view TV and 49% share that it’s an intended activity.  And just how often do these viewers binge? Forty-four percent report that it’s a weekly activity. 6% even say they binge every single day.

  • Binge Viewing Intent
    • 49% Yes, I plan to binge
    • 40% No, I never intend to watch that much TV
    • 11% I do not binge watch TV

Your Binge Playlist

Our research shows that the content doesn’t necessarily need to be ‘new’ to be binge-worthy. Subscribers agree that re-watching a show is considered bingeing too (maybe it’s Seinfeld’s The Yada Yada episode that they’ve seen a dozen times) . Old favorites are the third most-binged content on Hulu, behind original series and new shows.

Regardless of what they’re watching, compared to week-to-week viewing and bingeing an entire season in one sitting, viewers across all generations prefer to watch multiple episodes at once.  Fifty-five percent of Hulu viewers say, “I watch every night but cut myself off at some point” and 29% say “I literally watch until I finish a show (even if I stay up all night).” The urge to stay awake to watch ‘one more episode’ is very real!

People Watch in Predictable Patterns

Given that Hulu’s experience allows for both binge and weekly viewing, we dove into our internal data to understand the distinctions between these behaviors.  We learned that behaviors remain largely consistent from season-to-season, meaning that if someone binge watches Season 1 of a show then they’re more likely to binge Season 2. On the other hand, if they watch Season 1 week-to-week, they’re likely to continue that behavior as they dive into the second season.

  • Weekly Viewers of Current Season of Empire:
    • 75% Watched Previous Season Weekly
    • 25% Binged Previous Season

Similarly, we see that viewers watch content in the same order that the show originally aired. Even though viewers have the ability curate their own episode ordering, they continue to watch in a predictable pattern.  With the exception of a few classic episodes, people tend to start from the beginning and work their way through season by season, as shown below with Seinfeld viewing.

Bingeing, Episodic Viewing, and Everything in Between: What Does This Mean for Marketers and Advertisers?

Given the variety of viewing styles observed in today’s on-demand world, marketers must be nimble and utilize insights around viewing behavior to drive their message in a manner that’s situationally relevant.  Perhaps this comes in the form of frequency caps to prevent overexposure during a binge-fest or targeting creative specifically for bingers. Understanding the context around how they are viewing is vital to maintaining a viewer’s attention.

It’s true, there’s no such thing as too much TV.


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Q&A With
Gadi Amit

Founder, New Deal Design

Gadi: The development of serendipity in recommendations is very important. An analogy I use is that of a restaurant. If you go to a good restaurant, you don’t always want to see what you’re looking for. You’re looking for surprises. It’s not the expected, it’s the unexpected. You trust in the restaurant’s atmosphere. You don’t know exactly what you’re getting, but you trust their creativity and that you’ll enjoy whatever they serve you.

Do you think it is possible for a streaming service to become that “restaurant” - a trusted source of serendipitous recommendations?

Gadi: I absolutely do. But it is difficult. It’s a long game. It requires them to build trustworthiness with audiences through genuine content recommendations over the years.

Q&A With
Gandi Amit

Found New Deal Design

Gandi: The development of serendipity in recommendations is very important. An analogy I use is that of a restaurant. If you go to a good restaurant, you don’t always want to see what you’re looking for. You’re looking for surprises. It’s not the expected, it’s the unexpected. You trust in the restaurant’s atmosphere. You don’t know exactly what you’re getting, but you trust their creativity and that you’ll enjoy whatever they serve you.

Do you think it is possible for a streaming service to become that “restaurant” -- a trusted source of serendipitous recommendations?

Gandi: I absolutely do. But it is difficult. It’s a long game. It requires them to build trustworthiness with audiences through genuine content recommendations over the years.

Q&A With
Jonathan Miranda

Emerging Strategy Principal, Salesforce

Another expectation among younger generations seems to be personalization. How are you seeing this play out in media?

Jonathan: If you go into the world of advertising and marketing, customized, personalized advertising is more important than ever before. There’s a realization that eight years of funny commercials that we’ve showed everybody probably for the fourth time, doesn’t work anymore. So there’s a lot of companies moving towards specialized advertising.

How does this type of personalization translate to personalizing content beyond advertising? Who’s going to predict what people will want to watch, and do it first?

Jonathan: It’s not about being the first to predict what people want to watch. It's different. It’s about getting viewers to browse. You want to show them the value of all of the money Hulu has spent and the great range of TV and film for them to choose from.

Q&A With
Julie DeTragila

Head of Research & Insights, Hulu

Julie: There are vast differences between the way under 35-year-olds watch TV and over 35-year-olds watch TV. I grew up in a world where there were maybe 10 channels, and my viewing changed as technology and options changed. Younger viewers started from a really different place. Everything has always been on-demand. Anything they ever wanted to see was available to them, and they therefore have different expectations for TV.

How so?

Julie: One of the things we found with Gen Z is that they really want to be immersed in something for a long time. They want to have content that they can live with for a while; it’s like this long, seamless storytelling. They’ll knock off a couple episodes a night and it will last a couple of months. And then they’ll re-watch it a million times over.

What other shifts have you seen happen-with Gen Z but also more broadly-with the rise of streaming?

Julie: For years, television had to deliver a specific rating. Shows had to appeal broadly or else they wouldn’t survive. And those days are long gone because, with streaming services, shows can reach hundreds of thousands of people or tens of thousands of people and still be considered successful. There’s more experimentation with the types of content; we’re not locked into an hour, a half hour, a comedy, etc. The industry can create really niche shows to appeal to niche audiences, but also simultaneously create big, broad experiences that are shared by millions.

Q&A With
Larissa May

Founder, #HalftheStory

Your work focuses a lot on Gen Zs who, for better or worse, are dubbed “digital natives.” How do you think a generation of digitally native audiences view digital content differently than older generations?

Larissa: I think for young people digital content is a way they’re able to explore their own identities through the story... They want to see themselves and their stories in the content that they’re engaging with.

Tell us a little more about this digital content as Gen Z’s form of self-reflection.

Larissa: Digital content is sort of like a currency. I find that young people want to watch things that their friends are watching so that they can have conversations about it. For example, with Euphoria, young people were just kind of in love with the characters. It was very timely and a bit provocative, and then there was a way that they could see themselves in these stories and connect with their friends about the topics and ideas in the show.

And then also they could almost embody these characters in their own life. I really do think that the TV shows that young people are buying into are actually influencing their culture and their trends and even their language that they’re using.

Q&A With
Richard Frankel​

Global Creative Director, Spotify

What does the future of personalization look like?

Richard: I think it’s all down to trust. We're going to see more opportunity on platforms like Hulu and Spotify where the user trusts us.

That’s really interesting. Another area we wanted to explore is podcasts, and their relationship to video. For example, the show Homecoming is an adaptation of a podcast; the podcast Office Ladies is a spin-off from a TV show. Why do you think the two formats work so well together?

Richard: Anything at all that drives conversation in pop culture, and TV does a lot of that, is worthy of consideration in a podcast environment. Any of these conversations can become multiple audio streams that evolve with experts, interviews, and all kinds of narrative threads that can flesh out characters, or narrative development, or whatever's happening in those shows.