If you’re curled up on your couch this weekend during the winter storm that’s about to batter the Northeast, don’t feel guilty when you let the fifth consecutive episode of Orange Is the New Black start automatically playing. Netflix says lots of other people are binge watchers too.
The company commissioned a survey from Harris Interactive to find out more about the way binge watching, viewing many episodes of the same show back-to-back, is affecting people’s television habits. According to the survey of 3,000 adults, 61 percent of those who stream TV binge-watch regularly. Seventy-three percent of those surveyed say they have positive feelings about the practice. While 51 percent said they prefer to binge-watch with others, 38 percent prefer to watch shows for hours on end alone.
The company sent cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken into people’s homes to conduct interviews and study their viewing habits. While he found that the proliferation of quality TV shows is one reason people binge-watch, he also pointed to uncertainty about the economy as a motivating factor. “t is a time of some uncertainty,” he said in an email. “Viewers are seeking out something that provides narrative continuity. These immersive stories give pleasure.”
Netflix has also released some actual streaming data to back up its survey claims. The company studied the viewing habits of hundreds of thousands of users who watched and finished 10 popular shows within the span of one month, according to the Wall Street Journal. Of these people who completed a season of a show, about half typically finished the season in a single week. For one serialized drama, 25 percent of the people studied finished a 13-episode season in two days.
The new data is likely an effort to cast the “binge watcher” in a more positive light than the lazy “couch potato,” who has been idly flipping through TV channels for generations. However, Netflix won’t feed into all our binging desires. Its next original show, a cartoon from DreamWorks Animation called Turbo F.A.S.T., will premiere with five episodes on Christmas Eve and have the rest of its episodes rolled out sporadically in 2014.
House of Cards will make all of us hermits early next year, though. All 13 episodes of the second season of the show will premiere on Valentine’s Day.