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Michelle Paret


How Many Episodes Does It Take to Get Hooked on a TV Show?

In search of correlation, causation, and commitment

Published: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 - 11:34

I have two young children, and I work full-time, so my adult TV time is about as rare as finding a Kardashian-free tabloid. So I can’t commit to just any TV show. It better be a good one. I was therefore extremely excited when Netflix analyzed viewer data to find out at what point watchers get hooked on the first season of various shows.

Specifically, they identified the episode at which 70 percent of viewers who watched that episode went on to complete the entire first season. Translation for me: If I can tell early on if I’m going to like a show, I’m game.

If the vast majority of viewers get hooked on The Walking Dead and all its zombie apocalypse gore-galore after just two episodes and I’m not feeling it by then, I’ll call it a day and move onto the next “it” show.

Which shows get you hooked the fastest?

Although there weren’t any shows where episode one was all it took—although I’m pretty sure Downtown Abbey had me at the opening scene—there were many shows that came close.

Bates Motel, Breaking Bad, Scandal, Sons of Anarchy, Suits, The Killing, and The Walking Dead tied for the No. 1 spot, each taking only two episodes until you’re hooked. Dexter, Gossip Girl, House of Cards, Marco Polo, Orange Is the New Black, and Sense8 came in next at three episodes each.

As for which shows take the longest, Arrow and How I Met Your Mother required the biggest level of commitment to get hooked, at eight episodes. However, I noticed that both of these shows were similar in that they had some of the highest numbers of total episodes at 23 and 22, respectively. This got me thinking: Does the total number of episodes have an impact on the number of episodes it takes someone to get hooked?

Afraid of a big commitment?

To see if the total number of episodes has an impact on the number of episodes until you’re hooked, I used Minitab Statistical Software to graph the total number of episodes in season one vs. the episode hook number.

I also ran the corresponding correlation test, which yielded a p-value of 0.000. Therefore, we can conclude that there is a statistically significant correlation between the two variables. The more episodes in a season, the more episodes it takes until 70 percent of viewers complete the entire season.

However, every good data analyst knows that correlation does not equal causation. So rather than assuming folks are less likely to make the commitment to view a long season, it could simply be due to the fact that the more episodes there are, the greater the opportunity there is a for a person to bail on the series—thus taking longer to hit the 70-percent barometer that Netflix used for its study.

Now to decide which show to watch next... when I find the time....


About The Author

Michelle Paret’s picture

Michelle Paret

Michelle Paret is a product marketing manager at Minitab Inc., developer of statistical analysis/process improvement software. She loves the field of statistics and believexs that it gives us the ability to remove human bias and opinion to discern between what is truly important—and significant—from those things that are not. She loves statistics so much that she earned both her undergrad and graduate degrees on the subject.


tv shows

Since we have only watched one of these series and it was only a couple of episodes (Blacklist) we didn't get fully hooked.  I liked it, but we couldn't remember its broadcast time and other things came up so we didn't get back to it.  Most of the shows you mentioned are not of interest in the first place, so we didn't even consider them. For instance, why does it take several seasons to tell someone how I met your mother?  It seems to me it could have done in an hour or less!.  Zombie shows are of no interest at all.  Many times it is who is in the show not what it is about at first, then after you watch it, then you get hooked.  Tim Allen's Last Man Standing is an example of that.  Charlie Sheen's Two and a Half Men was funny, even though we didn't like his "lifestyle" on the show it was a funny show, after he left it went downhill in a hurry and we quit watching it. 

Shows like Perry Mason, Matlock, Columbo, Hogan's Heroes, George Burns and Garcie Allen are all worth watching again and again and again!  Most of the new shows are not even considered in the first place.   We have not seen one episode of most of the ones in your list.  So I guess we don't count in the statistics!