The Global Netflix Binge Epidemic: Are You Still Watching?

Ryan Ashenhurst
Ryan Ashenhurst
Ryan Ashenhurst
Contributor

You’ve watched three seasons of Trailer Park Boys in one hangover Sunday, and after a few more episodes, the Netflix screen freeze appears, “Are you still watching Trailer Park Boys?” to which, in an almost philosophical stasis, you think “Am I?”. Still, continue watching Randy and have another drinky-poo. Must finish season four.

Netflix has announced that in the third quarter of 2017, they have 109,250,000 subscribers to the service, an increase of 26% from this time last year. A study in 2016 highlighted that the average user spends 18 minutes just deciding what to watch per session. If this average remains constant for 2017, then 109,250,000 global Netflix users will spend a staggering 32,775,000 hours just deciding what to watch! That’s collectively 3,741 years spent deciding what to watch on Netflix per session.

The examples above are calculated for the average time the collective user spends on deciding what to watch per session, so it isn’t a per year or even per week deal! Given that weekly use varies drastically amongst subscribers, it’s close to impossible to calculate how much time is spent browsing on average per week. But if everyone who subscribed to Netflix each used the service four times a week, then in the same time spent collectively browsing, Voyager 1 would make it to Alpha Centauri in a month.

So next time you’re spending an agonising amount of time deciding whether to watch Netflix shows like Neil De Grassi Tyson’s Cosmos or Star Trek Voyager, think about how far the real Voyager 1 could travel in space in these minutes that contribute to a staggering net time wasted on deciding what to watch. Is it proof that sometimes too much choice is an efficient time waster?

Netflix has a huge range of content that satisfies the viewer, but can penalise the filmmaker. Whilst algorithms push audiences towards content that will be of interest, the vastness of choice and perpetual cycle of new content usually means that a film or show will only have a flittering limelight of about two weeks. But Netflix are hiring Independent Film veterans to improve the service for the filmmaker, and assist viewers in finding something in less than 18 minutes.

Despite these staggering numbers, Netflix isn’t hindering the traditional moviegoing industry, but helping it. Last year, the company shelled out $7 billion on original productions, with Mudbound, Okja, The Mereyowitz Stories and First they Killed My Father all likely nominees for the Oscars.

The traditional Hollywood film industry has, at times, been intimidated by the rise of streaming services like Netflix, as moviegoing at home supersedes the traditional trip to the cinema. But with no Ads, no popcorn being eaten at the rate of a hungry zoo and no moths in the wallet, we can appreciate why.