Big Shake-up for Most-Watched Shows: Americans’ streaming behavior analyzed

 In Consumer Behavior, Featured, Streaming, Top 10, Trends

Americans’ viewing of the Top 10 shows on Netflix in March was up more than 20 percent over the same period a year earlier. The increase more than offsets a 2 percent audience drop from February, a big improvement over February’s 19 percent drop from January. The Office was the most-watched and second most-binged show during March, with the newly-released Marvel’s Iron Fist and a new season of Trailer Park Boys leading the Netflix Originals rankings. Read on for our full online streaming analysis.

Top 10 Netflix Originals in March

Every month, we analyze Americans’ Netflix streaming behavior to identify the top 10 shows and month-over-month (MoM) viewership trends. As always, we focused our analysis on two distinct behavioral cohorts: “Binge watchers” who watch at least five episodes of a show a day, and “casual viewers” who watch a minimum of 20 minutes of a show in a day. This month, we found that while viewing of the top 10 shows decreased 2.3 percent from February, it was still up 21.6 percent over February 2016. A similar year-over-year (YoY) increase was noted in February.

There was considerable movement among Netflix Originals with two replacements on the most-binged list and four shows new to the most-watched rankings. Voltron: Legendary Defender and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt left the bottom two spots on the most-binged list and were replaced by Grace and Frankie and Love.

On the most-watched list, The Seven Deadly Sins, Voltron: Legendary Defender, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Trollhunters lost their top-of-mind status. They made way for new #1 Marvel’s Iron Fist, Love, Dave Chappelle, and Grace and Frankie.

Season One of Marvel’s Iron Fist premiered on March 17 and garnered 24 percent of top 10 viewing. Yet it failed to make the most-binged list. Why? Our data found that 90 percent of viewers watched no more than two Iron Fist episodes during March.

Love got its boost from the launch of Season Two on March 10 with Season Three of Grace and Frankie arriving March 24. Love’s March 2017 viewership was more than 14 times that of February 2016, when Season One premiered.

Almost too late to factor in during month was the arrival of Season 11 on Trailer Park Boys on March 31. That program’s #1 most-binged ranking, with a 21 percent share of total top 10 audience, may be credited to viewers “catching up” ahead of the new release.

The premiere of new shows and new seasons of favorites generally creates a big boost in audience that lasts for about a month and may impact two of our reports before subsiding.

As proof: Santa Clarita Diet, which premiered to immediate success on February 3, was the big loser on both lists in March. The Netflix Original fell from #1 on both rankings with a 32 percent share of most-binged and 37 percent of most-watched in February to #7 with 8 percent of the top 10 most-binged and #6 with 7 percent of the top 10 most-watched.
Overall, however, the Netflix Originals top 10 most-binged programs were down 29 percent MoM, yet still showed a 16.7 percent YoY improvement.

Top 10 Original Binged Shows in March Top 10 Original Watched Shows in March
# Title % of Top 10 Title % of Top 10
1 Trailer Park Boys 21% Marvel’s Iron Fist 24%
2 Grace and Frankie 18% Grace and Frankie 16%
3 Arrested Development 14% Love 15%
4 Star Wars: The Clone Wars 9% Trailer Park Boys 8%
5 Dragons: Race to the Edge 9% Arrested Development 8%
6 Love 8% Santa Clarita Diet 7%
7 Santa Clarita Diet 8% Dragons: Race to the Edge 6%
8 BoJack Horseman 7% Dave Chappelle 6%
9 The Seven Deadly Sins 5% Star Wars: The Clone Wars 5%
10 Trollhunters 3% BoJack Horseman 4%


Top 10 shows binge-watched and viewed on Netflix in March

Family Guy continued as the #1 most-binged program, a title it has held since last June. Its 16 percent share of the top 10 audience was the same as in February. The Office came in second, up one percent from last month. The rest of the top 10 were the same as last month, with the sole exception being That 70s Show knocking Forensic Files out of the tenth position. All 10 were within a point plus or minus of their percentage of the top 10 in February.

Friends holds a special place in the Netflix audience’s heart. It was alone among the top 10 in not seeing a MoM audience drop from February and scored an impressive 24 percent increase in binge-viewing over its 2016 monthly average.

The most-watched list for March is completely different from February. None of that month’s top 10 programs returned in March. Rather, the most-watched and most-binged lists for March are a near mirror image of one another. Only Archer and That 70s Show are on one list but not on the other, both in 10th place.  

Archer, however, premiered on March 28, so making the top 10 list in only a few days was driven by a 40 percent increase in viewing MoM.

Top 10 Binged Shows in March Top 10 Watched Shows in March
# Title % of Top 10 Title % of Top 10
1 Family Guy 16% The Office 19%
2 The Office 14% Friends 15%
3 Friends 13% Family Guy 13%
4 American Dad! 11% Bob’s Burgers 9%
5 Bob’s Burgers 11% How I Met Your Mother 8%
6 Futurama 10% Parks and Recreation 8%
7 How I Met Your Mother 8% Futurama 8%
8 Parks and Recreation 6% American Dad! 8%
9 It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia 6% It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia 7%
10 That 70s Show 5% Archer 5%


Bottom line: We saw very clearly in February how a new season drives big audience gains. March again proved the gains can be short-lived as interest wanes. 2017’s good news continues to be that this year’s total top 10 audiences are more than 20 percent larger than those for the same month in 2016, blunting a MoM audience loss from both January and February. So we again close by asking: Will the MoM losses and YoY gains continue next month? Will Marvel’s Iron Fist find an audience? Please come back to find out.

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