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This is how people decide what to binge-watch next on Netflix and Hulu

March 23rd, 2019 at 1:39 PM
What to stream right now

Now that the weekend is at hand, for many people it means the resumption of binge watching the TV shows that are stacking up in their Netflix, Hulu and Amazon queues. Or, now that work is done until Monday and you’ve got some free time on your hands, maybe that means instead that it’s time to find something new to stream — a new retro series to get back into on Hulu, perhaps, or maybe a Netflix original to try a bit of to see if you like it.

Nights and weekends are when a lot that activity is taking place and those decisions are being made — and a new survey out from Nielsen reveals some pretty interesting findings that explain, among other things, how most folks decide what content to stream next. The survey is Nielsen’s quarterly MediaTech Trender, and among its findings: Most of us base what we decide to stream next on — surprise! — the shows we already love.

The majority of respondents to the Nielsen survey (67%) said the biggest influence on what they decide to stream is the existence of shows they used to watch on broadcast TV now being available to stream. In other words, instead of taking a chance on an unknown quantity like a new Hulu original, most people prefer instead to pass the time bingeing old episodes of, say, Friends — which explains why Netflix paid Friends owner WarnerMedia between $70 and $80 million for the rights to keep running the show.

Apparently, the choice between new and old is not always that much of a choice at all.

The Hollywood Reporter has more about the Nielsen survey’s findings, saying the second most influential factor that determines what most people will decide to stream next is the suggestions they get from friends and family members. Some 66% of respondents cited that factor, with both that and the number one choice being far and away more influential than other determinants, like reading reviews of new shows premiering soon.

Only 42% of respondents said they let what they see on social media sway their decision of what to stream. And while every streaming service tries hard to personalize your experience and uses algorithmically generated predictions to guess what you might want to watch next, less than half of the survey’s respondents (48%) said they pay attention to those choices.

So what are we to make of all this? You could draw a number of conclusions, but it might be especially useful to recall the words of Don Draper, from one of the most bingeworthy series of them all. Nostalgia is a delicate, potent force, and it’s interesting to see that while the entertainment industry keeps taking such giant leaps forward in terms of technology and content delivery, nostalgia keeps pulling us back, back, back — to all the shows we loved before.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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