Netflix Knows Which Episode Gets You Hooked

Hello, I’m a binge Netflix watcher. Yes, it’s an addiction at times but I can’t help it and it appears that I’m not alone. In fact, Netflix has revealed that it is able to determine which episode of your favorite series got you hooked. (Does this mean that I can stop before that episode and sidestep my addiction?)

In my personal experience the first episode of a series is usually not enough to get me to commit to watching but the third episode often is. Netflix research shows that, while the episode that gets viewers hooked is different for each show, there is a pivotal episode that compels at least 70 percent of Netflix subscribers to watch the remaining episodes of the season.

For the (awesome) sci-fi series Stranger Things and the Bronx teen drama The Get Down, it was the second episode that did the trick. In Stranger Things, that was the episode where Will and Barb went missing and a mysterious little girl emerges from the woods.

For Love and Narcos the magic episode was number three. For Fuller House, Jessica Jones, Making a Murderer, and Master of None, it took until episode four for viewers to commit. (Considering that I usually only give a show three episodes before I give up, it’s interesting to note that I haven’t become hooked on any of the shows where the fourth episode is pivotal.)

It seems that TV producer Shonda Rhimes knows how to pull in viewers as both Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder created fans by the second and third episodes, respectively. On the other hand, network shows Gilmore Girls and The Good Wife didn’t convert viewers to committed fans until the seventh and sixth episodes, respectively.

The interesting thing is that Netflix’s findings are universal.

“We've always believed there is a universality to great stories," said Cindy Holland, vice president of original content at Netflix. "The Internet allows us to share these stories with a global audience and what we see from the data is how similar our members watch and respond. The hooked findings give us confidence that there is an appetite for original and unique content all over the world, which is why we’re excited to deliver variety in stories to our members, whether they’re political dramas from France or musical dramas from the Bronx.”

Sometimes it’s fear, the unknown, or the dark side of human nature that pulls us in. In Stranger Things viewers needed to know what happened to Will and the story behind the mysterious girl, while Narcos and Marseilles grab us with political corruption that becomes evident by episode three. In episode four of Making a Murderer we are taken by the interrogation of Brendan Dassey.

On the other side, there is budding romance. Episode seven of Gilmore Girls has Rory’s first kiss. In episode seven of Jane the Virgin’s, Jane rekindles a relationship with an old flame. And Grey’s Anatomy gets right to it in episode two with the romantic tension between Meredith and McDreamy in the elevator.

Netflix usually doesn’t release insights from its payload of viewership information but it’s fun to get a peek into what motivates us to become committed viewers, if not bingers. Perhaps the research “proves” that success in a series can be formulaic. Or maybe not. One thing's for sure, it plays into Netflix’s goal of having original programming account for 50 percent of all Netflix content. The company is aiming to have 600 hours of Netflix originals by the end of 2016.