‘Orange Is the New Black’ Ends on Viewer High

Analysis: Final season sees highest demand level for series

Selenis Leyva, Danielle Brooks, Diane Guerrero,
Stephen Lovekin/Variety/Shutterstock

Litchfield Penitentiary may have closed its doors for good, but the last visit with its inmates saw a series-high level of interest for “Orange Is the New Black.”

The premier for the final season of Netflix’s longest-running original registered 24% higher in the U.S. the day after its July 26 premiere than during the same period for the season-six premiere, according to demand measurement firm Parrot Analytics, which conducted exclusive analysis for Variety using its “demand expression” calculation. 

By analyzing online expressions of interest in a series from multiple sources, Parrot is able to determine its total demand level. The resulting single weighted score provides a useful proxy for the viewer data Netflix doesn’t publicly disclose.

The results of the analysis showed that, among Netflix’s global audience, interest over the first 7 days post-release for “OITNB” was strongest in the U.S. This was 26% higher than the second-strongest market, the U.K.

Going further back, the final-season demand level in the U.S. is a huge 73% higher than levels seen for season 3, released in 2015.

It should be noted that the analysis was only able to go back to the third season. But it is highly unlikely earlier seasons had levels approaching that of the current demand, with Netflix’s last reported domestic paid subscriber count 46% higher than the same time period in 2015.

For what is still a relatively new programming source, it should be encouraging for Netflix to see for the first time that is not only capable of keeping an original series on the air this long but for “OITNB” to make it to the finish line riding a high. This obviously isn’t a case of a series being left on the air past its expiration date.

The appetite for the final season was not a one-day flash in the pan either. Demand remained an average of 17% above season-six levels over the first week of release for the title, with the upward movement in interest suggestive of an upward viewership tick.

The comparative strength of “OITNB” is illustrated when comparing average demand expressions for all Netflix originals within the U.S. market for the week following season 7’s launch. Among these, the only one to have a stronger conveyed market desire was runaway pop-culture hit “Stranger Things.”

With the recent trend of Netflix originals not being renewed after a third season, the streaming service may be wise to show more patience with series that could take quite some time to gather their full strength. Netflix may be slowly changing their stance on this, with recent news that “13 Reasons Why” will have a fourth and final season.