While you've been watching Netflix, Netflix has been watching you.
Netflix, which streams original content and TV shows and movies from other producers, this week released an analysis of the viewing patterns for the first seasons of 25 shows. It says it identified exactly when viewers got hooked on them. The analysis may not be airtight, but it is fun to look back and try to remember exactly which episode prompted us to call in sick to work and cancel our weekend plans.
For some shows, Netflix says, addiction happened relatively early. "Breaking Bad" and "Bates Motel" got viewers snagged from their second episodes, for example, while it took six episodes of "Mad Men" and a whopping eight episodes of "Arrow" to garner loyal viewers.
In compiling the results, analysts for the Los Gatos, California-based company examined how their viewers watched shows between January and July of this year in 16 different countries. They determined that an episode that "hooked" viewers was one in which 70 percent of the people who watched it went on to complete the rest of the season.
One of the most interesting things about the research is that it points out that pilot episodes might not be the best vehicles to use in measuring a show's success, and that Netflix's model of providing a show in its entirety could be an effective way to build viewer loyalty.
"Given the precious nature of prime-time slots on traditional TV, a series pilot is arguably the most important point in the life of the show," Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix, said in a statement. "However, in our research of more than 20 shows across 16 markets, we found that no one was ever hooked on the pilot. This gives us confidence that giving our members all episodes at once is more aligned with how fans are made."
While the analysis averaged the results over all the countries studied, some country-specific patterns did emerge. The Dutch got hooked on shows one episode ahead of most countries regardless of the show, while those in Australia and New Zealand were a bit slower to become fan boys and girls, taking one to two episodes longer to get hooked. Oh, and the Germans fell in love with "Arrow" before any other country.
The analysis does raise some questions. For starters, there's really no way to know how many viewers simply got hooked at episode 1.
Also, there's no accounting for the fact that different shows have seasons of different lengths, so getting hooked at eight episodes into a show like "Arrow," which has a total of 23 in the first season is not similar to getting hooked on "Breaking Bad," which had only seven episodes in its inaugural season.
And in some cases, shows brought with them viewership from previous properties, as is the case with "Better Call Saul" (a spin-off from "Breaking Bad") and "Bates Motel," based on the movie "Psycho."
Still, if nothing else, the analysis is entertaining, and makes you think about when and how you decide to continue with a series. Something to think about as you check out the "hooked" episodes of the 10 shows we thought would most likely be favorites of readers of CNET's Crave blog above. Binge on!