How Viewers Choose the Shows They Watch

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Streaming platforms are quickly becoming the most popular method of watching TV shows. With so many services out there, how do you get viewers to choose your service? Better yet, how do you get them to stay and watch more content?

Answering these questions requires an investigation into how certain OTT services use user analytics to drive not only their recommendations, but also their content acquisition. In this article, we’ll be discussing some recent trends and how popular business practices leverage data to give viewers more of what they want and make it easier for them to choose to stay on a platform.

How are People Watching TV?

It’s worth noting that the 39% recorded in 2019 has decreased significantly from 48% in 2016. Conversely, Netflix viewership in this context has risen from 15% in 2016 to the 21% mark in just three years. Remember that Amazon and Hulu became prominent streaming platforms during that time as well.

Why Stream Shows?

So what do we take away from this data?

While traditional TV viewership is still alive, it’s clear that people are beginning to catch onto streaming services not just for grabbing the latest shows, but also for binge-watching.

How do streaming services induce that behavior in their viewers? What strategies do they employ to help users choose what they watch and how they watch them?

Helping Viewers Choose

Netflix and Analytics

Some of the behaviors Netflix tracks to get relevant data include:

  • Browsing behavior
  • Watching behavior
  • Tracking when you pause, fast forward, or rewind
  • The time of day when you watch shows

They constantly figure out what they should recommend to a user based on such information and to keep them engaged. Greater engagement means that users will want to keep watching shows on their service for longer periods of time.

After all, the more someone uses a service and the more they engage with the content on that platform, the less likely they are to cancel and the more money that platform will make through subscription fees.

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Not Just Internal Data

In 2011, Netflix bought the rights to the American adaptation of House of Cards, a show produced by director David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey. It was the first show the company ever produced.

But Netflix didn’t invest in the show just because they thought it was a neat program — they did so because they had the data to back up their purchase.

They looked at their user analytics and found that one of Fincher’s films, The Social Network, was popular on Netflix. They also knew the success of the British version of House of Cards, and that Kevin Spacey films were popular among their British users.

Thus, Netflix decided to go forward with House of Cards because they had the analytics to back up their business decision. Fast forward to 2021, Netflix is home to some of the most popular television shows in the world.

They employed the same tactic with their other original program, Orange is the New Black. Jenji Kohan, the showrunner for OitNB, also produced the show Weeds, which was popular on Netflix. The company then jumped on the opportunity when Kohan announced that he was working on a new program, and bought the rights to the show.

Using Data to Help Viewers Choose

How viewers choose what they watch has a lot to do with how the company is using their data, and that’s why people binge-watch shows on the most popular platforms. Finding and acquiring the appropriate content that aligns with what viewers are interested in is invaluable for competitiveness and sustainability in the current OTT market.