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Friday, 25 September 2015

What do those Netflix statistics mean??


So for a long time now, this 'ere blog has had a USP in terms of recommending shows: The Barrometer, which itself replaced The Carusometer. This takes the long view, requiring a minimum viewing of three episodes before it's willing to give a cheesy grin and a rousing showtune - and the all-important thumbs up or thumbs down to the show.
But I often wonder if that's too much or even few. Some shows you sense are never going to be good from the outset, while others genuinely do take a long time to get to the point (I'm looking at you here Rubicon - 10 episodes before you reveal your brilliance? Really?).
All I can do is guess. However, Netflix knows better. Apart from its top secret way to covertly view your every move as you sit in front of your TV screen or monitor (shh, don't tell anyone), it also can analyse exactly how far you get into a show before you decide you've got to watch the rest of it or abandon it altogether. And they've just released the results in a shiny infographic (click it to make it bigger):
Netflix infographic
There's also a list:
  • Arrow — Episode 8
  • Bates Motel — Episode 2
  • Better Call Saul — Episode 4
  • Bloodline — Episode 4
  • BoJack Horseman — Episode 5
  • Breaking Bad — Episode 2
  • Dexter — Episode 3
  • Gossip Girl — Episode 3
  • Grace & Frankie — Episode 4
  • House of Cards — Episode 3
  • How I Met Your Mother — Episode 8
  • Mad Men — Episode 6
  • Marco Polo — Episode 3
  • Marvel’s Daredevil — Episode 5
  • Once Upon a Time — Episode 6
  • Orange is the New Black — Episode 3
  • Pretty Little Liars — Episode 4
  • Scandal — Episode 2
  • Sense8 — Episode 3
  • Sons of Anarchy — Episode 2
  • Suits — Episode 2
  • The Blacklist — Episode 6
  • The Killing — Episode 2
  • The Walking Dead — Episode 2
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — Episode 4
Although it's worth remembering that the Netflix viewing experience is different from watching TV weekly, as you can see, it's never the pilot episode that grabs virtually anyone, so clearly I'm onto something there.
But there are a few surprises in there. Eight episodes before being grabbed by Arrow? Who waits that long? And episode five for Marvel's Daredevil, rather than the bravura episode 2? How odd.

2 comments:

Daryl said...

No idea how they can tell at what point people decide to stick with a show. I assume this came from their viewing data rather than surveys.

I can abandon a show at almost any point. I tend to stick with things until the quality drops below a certain point.

Not sure I agree with their conclusion either. i.e. that putting every episode of a season out at the same time is better. It's true that I will watch more episodes if they're available. But that just means that the first season effectively becomes the pilot.

Just because I watch the whole of a first season, doesn't mean I'll commit to the second. e.g. I watched the whole of S1 of Bloodline because it was available, but I wouldn't start up Netflix again specifically for Season 2 when it arrives.

Daryl said...

Ah, I thought it was something like this:

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/sep/25/netflix-knows-which-episodes-get-you-hooked-to-a-series

It's when 70% of an episode's viewers continue to the end of the season. So it's basically when the audience stops dropping. Lots of people try ep1, but then fewer watch ep2, fewer ep3 etc. Then whoever's left will watch until the end of the season.

I agree with the article about 3 eps being standard to judge a show. But sometimes you know a show's not for you just from the trailer. A first episode will tell you if a show is bad, but not necessarily if it's good. 3 eps should tell you if it's worth continuing with.

The notion that this 3-ep approach broadly works shows how TV programmes have changed in this new golden age. Now, it's common for a show to come storming out of the gate with a great first season, but then tail off in later seasons. But in the 90s, 3 eps wouldn't have been nearly enough. It was standard for the first season to be ropey and for a show to only find its feet after that. Some shows didn't get really good until year 3 or 4 (I'm thinking specifically of the Star Trek spin-offs).

Nowadays, there's so much good TV to occupy our time that show can't wait that long to improve. The first season has to be good or viewers will find something else to watch.

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