10 Insights from Studies of Binge Watchers

Marathon TV viewers tend to be millenials playing catch up on shows; say they'll watch new seasons as they air

Kevin Spacey in 'House of Cards'

If Netflix’s “House of Cards” did anything, the drama exposed the growing group of binge TV watchers who devour a show’s episodes during marathon viewing sessions.

But a new study by research group MarketCast found that “Cards” is hardly an isolated phenomenon. Other shows that generated elevate binge levels among the 1,000-plus U.S. consumers surveyed include AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and “Breaking Bad,” Showtime’s “Dexter,” FX’s “Sons of Anarchy,” and HBO’s “True Blood.”

But as networks grapple with the potential effect of binge-viewing to their bottom line, what they’re starting to learn is less threatening than some early analysts have suggested.

The good news for broadcasters is that bingeing actually creates more viewers for TV shows, MarketCast found, which should broaden the audience for advertisers and their commercials when new episodes air.

That’s primarily because most binge viewers are just trying to catch up on a series they may have missed, and tend to tune into a series during its regular airings.


For example, 65% of those surveyed said they would watch new episodes of “Breaking Bad” without bingeing when the series returned, while another 58% said they would tune into “The Walking Dead” in similar fashion.

At the same time, despite the large amount of time required for bingeing, other forms of entertainment aren’t seeing a large decrease as a result of binge-viewing, the study, conducted in February, found.

In fact, while binge-viewing has become a much discussed buzz word of late, less than one-third of all binge-ers plan for it to become a more permanent way to watch their favorite TV shows, which should have many a broadcaster breathing a sigh of relief. In fact, in many cases, just 5% of binge-ers say that bingeing is the only way they watch shows, MarketCast found.

Still while binge-viewing may have recently gone mainstream, thanks to streaming services from Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and others that make shows available on various devices from set top boxes to tablets and smartphones, it was actually cable channels that got most binge-ers used to consuming more than one episode at a time when they air marathon blocks of shows, according to MarketCast.

SEE ALSO: Why Binge Watch When There’s Tantric TV?

But now that digital is making binge-viewing easier and more convenient, research groups are beginning to shed light on just who binges and what they tend to watch. Here’s 10 interesting tidbits from the MarketCast report:

— Binge-viewers can be separated into four groups of viewers fairly evenly: Those who watch series when sick or stuck at home from an injury; those who refuse to wait a week to see what happens next on a show; individuals who watch a series because others tell them they’re missing out; and those who want to revisit TV shows they’ve already seen before.

— The top three reasons given for bingeing are to watch a series an individual missed all or part of when it aired in the first place; to save time and avoid commercials, and to avoid having to wait to see what happens next on a favorite show.

— Around 48% of binge viewers strongly agree that bingeing gets them caught up on series they missed and makes them excited to watch new episodes when they air.

— Binge-viewing is gender neutral, but men under 30 are the segment most likely to say they binge-watch exclusively.

— Bingeing isn’t a social activity: Most binge viewers (or 56%) prefer to do it on their own, alone, with 98% doing so at home. The rest is done while on vacation (16%) or traveling on an airplane (13%).

— Curiously, most binge-viewing is done accidentally, with 71% saying they meant to watch just an episode or two and then wound up watching more.

— Around 60% of binge viewers say they will increase their binge-viewing in the future, and 86% say that binge-viewing is a major change in how people watch TV and is becoming more mainstream.

— Bingeing occurs more online than offline, with 58% done so through a streaming service, compared to 42% while watching a TV network. The rest is split up among a network or cable channel’s website, through DVRs and DVD or Blu-ray box sets.

— And binge viewers feel that dramas are best suited for bingeing (at 60%), followed by comedies (45%), actioners (31%), reality shows (26%) and animated fare (15%).

—  67% of Americans 13-49 claim to have had a binge-watching experience.

Marketcast isn’t the first binge-viewing study to come along. Magid Generational Strategies issued a report earlier in the year, with findings including that most binge viewers are millennials, with around 70% age 16-35.

There’s also some new evidence of binge-watching coming in outside the U.S. Toronto-based Solutions Research Group just completed a study last week of 1,200 Canadian Netflix subs and their “House of Cards” habits. One out of every three viewers of the series watched all 13 episodes in less than four weeks of its release. In the first month of release, an average of 7.1 “House” episodes were consumed.