Commitment During COVID-19: The Rise of Full Series Viewing

Streaming has fundamentally changed the way we watch TV, and it comes as no surprise that people are leveraging the power of Streaming TV to stay entertained during the current state of physical distancing. Generation Stream, the next generation of TV viewers, has told us that Streaming TV has changed the way they watch content. From endless choices to having more control over their TV viewing experience, streaming has given rise to a behavior we’re calling “Full Series Viewing,” in which viewers watch every episode of a series from start to finish.

93% of Hulu viewers have watched a full series and/or are in the process of watching a full series during COVID-19. With more time at home, viewers are kicking back and letting the episodes roll, discovering new content or tuning into old favorites. There’s a sense of excitement that arises when a full TV series is available for immediate consumption, and Hulu viewers are certainly indulging — and craving more.

Recognizing the appetite for TV is at an all-time high, Hulu sought to explore viewers’ commitment to watching full TV series during this time, and find out whether or not having a full series available to stream plays into the decision-making process when deciding what to watch.

When it Comes to Content…the More the Better

We’ve reached the point where Zoom happy hours have lost their luster, every puzzle in the home has been put together, and another loaf of sourdough just cannot be baked. So it’s no surprise that people are turning to streaming services to help pass the time. And what better way to do so than by jumping into a full series and bingeing it from start to finish! 96% of Hulu viewers noted that they are likely to seek content that has a full series available during COVID-19. We understand the need to watch it all. How could we finish How I Met Your Mother without knowing how Ted actually met his children’s mother?

While they’re spending more time at home, Hulu viewers shared that they are turning to their televisions to relax, stay entertained, and escape from reality. Just take it from one of our viewers, who shared how this extra time at home creates the perfect environment for watching a full TV series: “Being home more is conducive to watching series. Having the full series available makes it easier to ‘escape’ the current world’s stresses and is much more enjoyable.”

Having access to a full TV series has even become part of their criteria when choosing a TV show to watch during this time. Viewers are more open to a TV commitment, and with a full series available to stream, they are able to binge-watch content and stay entertained for longer periods.

The need for binge-viewing is not new to our current times. More than half (51%) of Hulu viewers frequently binge-watch (3 or more episodes in one sitting) and 30% of viewers are watching 10+ hours of content per week. While this is not a new concept, we’ve seen that there is a strong preference to binge-watch episodes rather than wait for new episodes each week.

Hulu Viewers are Up for Commitment & Discovery

When asked how they feel about watching a full TV series, 9 in 10 Hulu viewers say that having a full series available makes the viewing experience more enjoyable. The ability to work their way through a complete series gives viewers “something to look forward to,” and allows them more time to build deeper connections with the characters. 

They also feel strongly that watching a full TV series is worth the time commitment. 86% agree that watching a full series is a “commitment they are ready for” and 72% note that they are “more likely to commit to watching a full series during COVID-19.” Full series viewing can be a social commitment or a commitment to oneself; 62% of Hulu viewers are watching full series alone, while 54% of viewers are watching content with their significant other. That kind of dedication would even make Jack and Rebecca Pearson proud.

There’s also the age-old question of “what to watch”? Do you press play on the ol’ reliable fan-favorite, or spend the effort searching for a new binge-watching adventure? For those who fall into the former, the top genres that viewers are rewatching are: adult animation, kids content, reality, and comedy. Series like Bob’s Burgers, The Bernie Mac Show, and The Golden Girls all rise to the top of recently watched, start-to-finish content. For viewers looking for something new – you’re not alone! Content discovery on Hulu has increased by 25% during COVID-19.

Post-Series Breakup

You did it. In the blink of an eye, you’ve managed to watch ALL the seasons of ”your” show. You witnessed the characters grow, the plot develop, and you stuck it out for all the twists and turns. But what happens when the credits roll after the series finale? Some Hulu viewers feel sad (55%) and attached (43%) to the show. We get it, it’s hard to say goodbye! On the other hand, nearly half of viewers (47%) feel a sense of accomplishment that they completed a series.

It’s clear that Hulu viewers are finding both relaxation and escapism in their TV viewing, and this is even more apparent when they are tuning into a full series. While it’s always tough to turn the proverbial page on your latest full series binge, if there’s a silver lining when finishing, it’s that there’s another one ready and waiting to be watched just one click away. 


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Andy-Goldberg
ANDY GOLDBERG
SVP, Global Brand Planning & Content
American Express
The first ad I remember:
Fruit Loops with Toucan Sam
My favorite TV show of all time:
Impossible to name just one but Friday Night Lights is on the all-time list.
I’m here to:
Connect with others on the potential of streaming … how things are changing so rapidly and how brands can be at the forefront of amazing content.

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Alex-Lopez
ALEX LOPEZ
Head of Global Brand Communications & Narrative
Nike
The first ad I remember:
Mike & Spike (Air Jordan)
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Sports, The Simpsons, The Sopranos, or anything else that starts with “S”.
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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.

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