Study: Binge-Viewing Up 18% Globally

Binge-watching — the practice of watching multiple episodes of a show in one sitting — became a national habit in the early 2000s when studios began releasing complete season sets, and then complete series, of popular TV shows like “The Sopranos” and “Friends” on DVD. The practice received another big boost in 2013, when Netflix began releasing original series in their entirety at launch.

Collins English Dictionary made “binge-watch” its word of the year two years later.

Now, binge-watching — defined as watching four or more episodes of a show in one sitting — has reached an all-time high of six hours, 48 minutes a week, with 82% of viewers binge-watching shows online, according to new data from Limelight Networks, a cloud-based services provider.

Binge-watching globally increased 18% from last year to an average of two hours, 40 minutes at a time.

Americans are the biggest binge-watchers, with sessions averaging over three hours. In addition to spending more time with online video, consumers are watching more online video services.

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The report — based on responses from 4,500 consumers in France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States age 18 and older, who watch one hour or more of online video content each week — found 70% of respondents subscribe to at least one streaming service (compared to 59% in 2018) and nearly 72% now use dedicated streaming devices (compared to 67% in 2018).

“Consumers are embracing new streaming platforms but retaining subscribers requires more than just good shows,” Michael Milligan, senior director at Limelight Networks, said in a statement. “Streaming service providers have spent extraordinary amounts of capital acquiring content and customers. To be successful in the long-term, quality programming and seamless user experiences are essential.”

With the increase in online viewing, expectations for quality experiences are also on the rise.

Viewers won’t tolerate streaming disruptions with 27% giving up on an online video after one re-buffering incident and another 40% leaving after two.

With nearly half of respondents reporting re-buffering as their primary online viewing frustration and another 31% reporting video quality issues as their top concern, it’s clear that streaming providers must prioritize quality of experience to align with viewer demands and retain subscribers.

Additional report insights include:

  • Broadcast viewing takes a hit, but remains more popular than online video. Global consumers watch just over seven hours of broadcast television each week, a decrease of 50 minutes since 2018. However, global viewership for traditional TV remains higher than online video across every country except Singapore and India.
  • Price sensitivity is the deciding factor in video subscriptions. Rising prices are the No. 1 reason global consumers will cancel their cable or satellite subscription (42%) and streaming services (52%). Consumers in the United Kingdom are the most apt to ditch cable or satellite TV due to cost (59%), while Italians have the highest price sensitivities for streaming (62%).
  • Streaming advertisements shouldn’t disrupt the viewing experience. Global consumers are most accepting of ads during an online video if they can skip it (59%) or if it’s a short ad before a free video (57%).
  • Mobile phones are the preferred online streaming devices. For the first time, smartphones have overtaken computers as the preferred device global consumers use to watch online video. When it comes to streaming on the big screen, global consumers prefer to use smart TVs (31%) over other dedicated streaming devices.

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