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Study: 500 Million Hours of Binge-Viewing Video Per Week

6 Jul, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

"Family Guy"

Binge-viewing, the social media terminology for watching consecutively two or more episodes of a TV show, is changing the television industry and how viewership is tracked.

A new study based on 750 survey respondents age 26-34 suggests more than 115 million subscribers of over-the-top (OTT) video binge-watch a TV show. About 87% of binge viewers watch up to three different series at the same time, according to report author Conviva.

The San Mateo, Calif.-based streaming data tracking firm said those viewers watch about four-and-a-half hours of a show during one session — or more than 500 million hours per week. Separately, online tracker eMarketer says consumers in the United States spend about nine hours a week watching online video. Another study found that binge-watching can lead to loneliness and depression.

Regardless, OTT video and time-shifted content represent a growing industry dynamic that downplays traditional primetime TV ratings tracking the number of households watching at a given time. In the OTT video universe, overall viewer engagement to a show — regardless of the size of that engaged audience — is more important than viewership at a particular time.

“Binge-watchers represent dedicated consumers,” Hui Zhang, CEO of Conviva, said in a statement. “As the line between OTT consumption and content creation blurs due to shifting viewing models, publishers need to ensure they’re building long-term value with viewers.”

As an example of marketing to dedicated viewers of a show, Conviva outlined the success of long-running animated TV hit “Family Guy,” which Fox had canceled due to low ratings but brought back when subsequent DVD sales of the series and syndication interest skyrocketed. The series, created by Seth MacFarlane, continues to air new episodes on Fox.

The report says packaged media, downloads and streaming represent viewer engagement to a show that can be better defined and quantified compared with time-based scarcity in traditional linear TV.

“[An episodic] show with a highly committed audience can continue to survive and thrive, so long as it can quantify its viewer base and correlate its success to the core operating metrics of the business: retaining subscribers and/or driving advertising dollars,” said the report.

Binge-Viewers are Impatient

While binge-viewers increase in numbers, their patience toward technology isn't keeping pace. Conviva said 42% of binge-viewing respondents will look for another show if unable to stream consecutive episodes of the current series they are watching, with 29% never returning. Another 25% will put the show on the backburner, 22% will wait for the next episode to become available, while 11% will replace the series with another.

“They are [also] one less person likely to buy a DVD at the end of the show,” said the report.

Conviva found that 61% of binge-viewers stream a show online, compared with 11% who download — 28% do both. Another 37% of respondents binge-watch via their pay-TV provider; 36% use a streaming media device such as a connected Blu-ray Disc player, Roku or Apple TV; 32% use a tablet; 26% use a smartphone; and 25% use video game console.

Finally, as watching consecutive episodes of a TV show change consumer viewing habits, technical issues such as buffering and slow streaming speeds will kill binge-viewing in a heart beat.

About 75% of respondents said they would give up on a show in less than 4 minutes due to technical issues. Indeed, 33% said they would abandon the show at the first hint of streaming issues.

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