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‘Arrested Development’ Draws Big Early Netflix Audience

Data shows binge viewing propels early surge; piracy also seen

“Arrested Development” isn’t just hype anymore.

Netflix is seeing strong early sampling for the series since launching all 15 of its episodes on Sunday, according to preliminary data from broadband technology firm Procera Networks.

Thirty-six percent of all devices connected to Netflix via one unspecified DSL network  tracked by Procera on Sunday were watching at least part of one episode of “Arrested Development”–three times the number of those watching “House of Cards” in February.

One unspecified cable broadband network saw traffic peak volumes for Netflix jump 10% on Sunday over the previous Sunday, with an 8% increase in the number of subscribers over the same time span. “Even though this was a holiday weekend, Arrested Development was a significant contributor to that traffic jump,” said Procera analyst Cam Cullen.

As expected, the binge viewers were out in force; data showed about 10% of viewers made it through all 15 episodes.

A range of 2-7% of total Netflix traffic on various networks were derived from “Arrested Development.” While that may seem tiny, weigh that range against the sheer volume of content on both Netflix and the Internet in general.

It’s not as simple as “Development” is a bigger draw than “Cards”; the latter series paved the way for the former, and “Arrested” brings in a much bigger built-in fan base given the cult following that has come in from its run on broadcast TV and DVD.

One downside for the popularity of the series: Episodes also popped up on file-sharing networks for illegal consumption.

Although TV industry execs have called on Netflix to release viewing stats for its bold foray into original series, the Los Gatos, Calif.-based company has its own justification for keeping those numbers data close to the vest. In Netflix’s view, providing ratings information would make little sense considering that the initial sampling levels so crucial to a premiere episode in traditional TV is meaningless to a company that measures the value of a series over the life of its run.

With Netflix sticking to its practice of not revealing ratings for its programming, Procera data is about as close as you can get to audience data. The company measures usage across the networks of five of the top 10 cable operators and three of the top 5 DSL operators in North America.

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