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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