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NPD: ‘Prison Break’ Tops Binge-Viewing on SVOD

26 Mar, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Fox Broadcasting Co.’s canceled 2009 TV series "Prison Break" was the most binged-watched program on subscription video-on-demand platforms in 2012, according to new data from The NPD Group.

Binge viewing is a phenomenon associated with SVOD and championed by Netflix. The streaming pioneer has made a hallmark in advocating its subscribers watch multiple episodes of TV shows during a viewing session.

The rationale being that Netflix (and other SVOD services) makes available entire seasons of new and catalog series catering to both fans and newcomers of a particular show.

NPD classifies binge viewers into two categories: "marathon bingers" and "catch-up bingers." Marathon bingeing is seen most frequently with canceled series that have already ended and viewers want to consume multiple episodes of a show, in order to follow the story arc of the series as quickly as possible.

Catch-up bingers are watching past episodes of TV series they are currently watching. The top-three most-binged TV series available from SVOD services in 2012 were “Prison Break” (Fox), “Charmed” (WB) and “That ’70s Show” (Fox) based on data from 313,866 SVOD TV transactions across 26,176 SVOD subscribers that were completed between January 2012 and January 2013.

Among marathon bingers, shows with high continuity from episode to episode are viewed most often. These series include “Prison Break,” “Heroes,” “Lost” and “24.” Separately, sitcoms that have generated a strong following over time are conducive for marathon viewing. They include “That ’70s Show,” “Arrested Development,” “Scrubs” and “Frasier.”

Indeed, Netflix is bowing 14 new episodes of “Arrested Development” with the original cast set to stream in May. The show featuring the wacky Bluth family (and headlining Jason Bateman) last aired in 2006 to critical acclaim but limited viewers.

Catch-up bingers focus on TV series that are still on the air. Viewers are watching previous seasons to catch up to the current season and view the latest episodes in real time.

NPD found that series such as “Psych,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead” that generate high levels of buzz on social networks fit this pattern. TV series with large cult followings, such as “Supernatural,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “Vampire Diaries” and “Sons of Anarchy,” typically see high levels of catching up.

Catching up prior to the start of a new season is also a factor in increased bingeing for some current TV series. For example, “Psych” viewers showed increased bingeing in the month leading up to the second half of the sixth season in February 2012.

"The beauty of bingeing is that the viewer can tailor their TV viewing activity to their unique personal situations," said Russ Crupnick, SVP of industry analysis at NPD. "Viewers can catch up before a new season begins, or testdrive a show that friends are talking about, or simply watch a few episodes of a sitcom on a rainy afternoon."

Crupnick said the rise in original SVOD programming will likely lead to more bingeing behavior; indeed, “House of Cards,” which bowed Feb. 1, saw viewers watch an average of six episodes in a single week. Meanwhile, “Charmed” and other lower-rated linear TV shows are popular among TV bingers, partly because of their availability across multiple subscription streaming sites, including Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime.

Top 10 Most Binged Shows Available on SVOD in 2012

1. “Prison Break”
2. “Charmed”
3. “That '70s Show”
4. “How I Met Your Mother”
5. “Gossip Girl”
6. “Supernatural”
7. “Scrubs”
8. “Heroes”
9. “24”
10. “One Tree Hill”

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