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For every series that we love, there’s that one episode. The one that makes you say to yourself, “I have to keep watching this.” Now that Netflix possesses nearly the entire history of television in one place, and they know exactly what everyone is watching, they’ve done some research about when television hooks its viewers. What’s interesting is that while there’s a lot of variability to the study, one thing is clear: “that one episode” is never the pilot.
Pilots are the most important episode in a series’ creation, because it’s often what determines if an idea makes it to series at all. But for fans, it appears that the pilot is never the episode that grabs anyone. Netflix looked at the viewing habits of their 65 million+ viewers and attempted to ascertain at what point the watcher became attached to the show. For the purposes of the study, they defined the “hooked episode” as the one which, after viewing, led 70% or more of the viewers to finish the season. They reviewed both their original series as well as others that are available on the service. For Breaking Bad, for example, it only takes until Episode 2 to get addicted, while How I Met Your Mother takes eight episodes.
Netflix is in a unique position because nearly all the other variables that affect TV watching - commercials, time slots, etc. - have been eliminated from the equation. What gets really curious is when the viewing habits are compared across cultures. The Dutch apparently love TV, as they get hooked on series one episode before other countries, and this apparently holds true regardless of the show. Germans got blown away by Arrow before everybody else, while the French fell for Barney Stinson a full episode before the rest of us.
Check out this nifty infographic to see where some series landed.
The data also reveals a handful of honest surprises. Apparently most viewers weren’t fully into Daredevil until Episode 5. You mean the entire world wasn’t on board after the single-shot hallway fight scene in Episode 2? The hell? Most weren’t taken by Arrow until Episode 8 (because nothing says hooked like an awkward dinner with Tommy and Laurel and Oliver and The Huntress). People are weird.
While the data doesn’t suggest exactly why these episodes are so pivotal in people’s viewing, it’s an intriguing question to ponder. Is it a particular scene in each episode that changes the story, or is it something else? In the case of some of these series, whose first season was only 10 or 12 episodes, by the time the “hooked” episode comes along, the series is nearly half over. Maybe people just decided they had might as well finish. The data is also only limited to first seasons, so it doesn’t say how many went on to watch Season 2.
What makes you hooked on a series? Which episodes do you remember as the ones that got you?