In 2010, there were around 200 television programs in the United States and only 4% of them aired on streaming networks such as Netflix. By 2020, this number had more than doubled.
Streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu now allow viewers to access more narrative content than ever. We conducted a study to understand how this digital disruption has affected how we watch TV.
Our findings reveal that streaming services have transformed the way viewers watch television series and that people are more engaged than they thought when it comes to tuning in.
We conducted extensive research that combined several methods, from traditional interviews with viewers, diaries and analysis of fan forums to the more creative (recording people in their homes watching TV series). We studied 30 viewers and analyzed online forums for seven TV shows (35 threads with 16,528 messages).
Skipping, speeding and spoiling
We find that series lovers want to control their viewing experience, which is contrary to passive viewing. Some viewers watch the entire episode from beginning to end, while others rewatch or skip scenes that they don’t like.
Some fans claim that they watch all or part of their series fast-forward (or “speed-watching”) in order to get as much information as possible in a very short time.
Anonymous “House of Cards” fan posting on an online forum:
“It is game on when the season drops. . . In a mad dash, I complete the episodes on ff . It distorts the voices a bit and the scenes are a little more cartoon-like but I can see a whole episode in under 30 minutes. “
Some people choose to see the end of the series first in order to make sure they enjoy it and to ensure that they are making a worthwhile investment.
Amysaid it in an interview:
” I watch happy stuff because life is not always easy. You don’t know what the end will look like in life. You have complete control of the ending. I suppose you can choose how you want it to be. It is the worst thing to work hard and not receive the reward at the final. “
While many people try to avoid spoilers, some viewers actually appreciate them. They can read detailed plot summaries online before they watch a show, and then manage their emotions.
Sometimes, suspense can be too much for some viewers. Spoilers can help viewers reduce anxiety when they don’t know what the next step will be.
Many dedicated fans search Wikipedia for more information about the series and the actors, or look online at fan theories and forums to gain a better understanding of the author’s motivations.
As Norastated in an interview:
“Maybe that’s my little bit to try to understand, from a writer’s perspective, where the story is heading and what the immediate ending will be. “
Fans can enjoy TV shows at their own pace, even when many factors are out of their control.
Choose your own adventure
Our findings have implications both for series producers as well as streaming platforms. Producers can cater to those who want deeper engagement by offering additional content that adds value to the narrative (for example in episode after parties like “The Walking Dead’s” “Talking Dead“).
They can facilitate fan engagement and discussion with people at different points of the story: those who saw it as it was aired originally, those who rewatch it after it has ended, and everyone in between. This requires hosting fan discussions based on content units (seasons