House of Cards Season 2

Binge trend descends on Netflix drama shortly after its bow

House of Cards” is back, and it’s bigger than ever.

The drama series’ second season that Netflix made available early Friday is getting far more sampling than its first season did, according to data provided by broadband technology firm Procera Networks.

A whopping 15% of Netflix subscribers on one particular Internet service supplied by an unspecified U.S. cable operator (Procera can’t identify its clients) watched the first episode during a six to eight hour period monitored Friday. That’s a massive increase compared with a similar measurement Procera made last year when just 2% of “Cards” viewers watched at least one episode over the course of an entire weekend (and that bow was aided by a free-month discount to new subs).

While the Procera numbers aren’t an exact science, they’re all we’re going to get considering Netflix doesn’t divulge its own numbers and Nielsen Media doesn’t track the streaming service. Extrapolating the data to a total-audience figure is impossible (though Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos recently indicated that unspecified Netflix programming were amassing auds bigger than cable fare on Sunday nights).

In true Netflix fashion, viewers aren’t stopping at just one episode. As the data breakdown outlined below indicates, Netflix subs are showing healthy sampling across the first five episodes. (The final episodes don’t show any activity yet because it’s still quite early.) As with the first season, the entire second season was made available Friday.

Procera is also seeing similar usage surges for “Cards” in other territories where Netflix is active. Scandinavia, for instance, is seeing a 6% uptake.

The surge isn’t exactly a surprise; Netflix has made huge headway since the first-season premiere in establishing itself as a presence for original programming. However, the SVOD firm’s silent treatment to news media and rival networks looking for numbers makes it difficult to get any sense of how original content does vis-a-vis its library of licensed movies and TV episodes.

What the value of early data like this is to Netflix is questionable. While its execs repeatedly assert it makes no difference whether its subs watch one of its programs on its first or 1,000th day on the service because there’s no advertising on the streaming service, first-day measurements are undoubtedly a useful data point in making comparisons that could inform its overall programming strategy. Premiere-day numbers may even give Netflix an early indicator of how strong “Cards” could perform over the life of its run.

Netflix ended the fourth quarter of 2013 with 31.7 million U.S. subs.

Procera measures usage across the networks of six of the top 10 cable operators and three of the top 5 DSL operators in North America.

Episode Percentage Of Netflix Subs
Episode 01 15.70%
Episode 02 16.10%
Episode 03 10.60%
Episode 04 8.60%
Episode 05 3.60%
Episode 06 0.90%
Episode 07 0.60%
Episode 08 0.30%
Episode 09 0.20%
Episode 10 0.20%
Episode 11 0.10%
Episode 12 0.00%
Episode 13 0.00%

Note: Episode 2 likely has viewing patterns in excess of Episode 1 because Procera began measuring usage eight hours after the episodes premiered–and binge-viewers had probably already finished the first one.

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