Have you said "just one more" to another online episode of a show so many times that you kill a Saturday or go to bed at 2:00 a.m. on a weeknight? You're not the only one.
Online-video giant Netflix recently released the results of a poll of about 1,500 people who stream TV shows online, and found that 61 percent of those viewers are binge watching, defined in the poll as watching more than two episodes of the same TV show in one siting. Of these binge watchers, 73 percent have positive feelings about it. But it's not just about sitting alone in the dark: 51 percent prefer watching shows with other people.
Those who binge watch do it for several reasons. Seventy-nine percent of respondents said watching several episodes in one sitting makes the shows more enjoyable, 76 percent said they prefer watching TV shows on their own schedule and 76 percent agree that watching multiple episodes of a good show is a welcome refuge from their busy lives. Clearly, many people subscribe to all three reasons.
So, which shows are people binge watching on Netflix? The company doesn't disclose performance numbers, but a November report from Internet data firm SimilarWeb found the top 20 shows on Netflix in 2013 were as follows:
- "Breaking Bad"
- "Family Guy"
- "How I Met Your Mother"
- "The Walking Dead"
- "Pretty Little Liars"
- "Arrested Development"
- "Doctor Who"
- "Grey's Anatomy"
- "The Vampire Diaries"
- "Orange Is the New Black"
- "House of Cards"
- "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
- "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"
- "The Office" (U.S. version)
- "Gossip Girl"
- "One Tree Hill"
- "American Dad"
- "South Park"
Can the Internet handle binge watching?
Netflix is the website with the most traffic in terms of overall data on the Internet for North America, according to network data firm Sandvine, with 31.6 percent of all data downloaded during peak streaming hours, which usually means 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. local time. Considering TV-show streaming has become so popular, it's not hard to see why Netflix gets so much traffic. But that may change soon.
A case before will determine if the FCC has the power to prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from throttling data from different sources. If the court rules against the FCC, ISPs could start putting a limit on the amount of bandwidth Netflix and other data-intensive sites can use, unless those sites — or even the users — pay for unrestricted access, not unlike paying extra for HBO or other premium channels. If Netflix is throttled, resulting in choppy or even non-HD video, the number of people streaming through Netflix, binge watching TV series or catching a film they missed could drop.
Harris Interactive conducted the online poll on binge watching at Netflix's request, surveying 1,496 people who stream video at least once per week. The numbers were then adjusted: "Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population," Harris Interactive stated in the polling methodology.