Netflix streaming down in February but up over 2016: Americans’ streaming behavior analyzed

 In Behavioral Analysis, Consumer Behavior, Featured, Popular, Site Analysis, Streaming, Top 10, Trends

In February, viewership of the leading ten shows on Netflix fell by 13 percent and viewership of the top ten Netflix Originals was down 9 percent. However, February’s streaming volumes for the leading shows were still 18 percent higher than last February’s volumes with viewership of Netflix Originals up 56 percent year-over-year. Viewership levels weren’t the only thing to change since our last installment. February is the first month since we began our analysis of Americans’ Netflix streaming activity that a true crime documentary series made the top ten most-binged list. Read on for our full online streaming analysis.

Top ten shows on viewed and binge-watched on Netflix in February

Every month, we analyze Americans’ Netflix streaming behavior to identify the top ten shows and month-over-month 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 decreased streaming of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Friends, Family Guy, and Bob’s Burgers helped drive a 13 percent drop in viewership of the top ten shows on Netflix during February, but that was still an 18 percent improvement over February 2016.

Family Guy remains the most binge-watched show, claiming first place for the ninth consecutive month and accounting for 16 percent of the top ten most-binged shows. While still in the lead, the show’s binge-watching activity was down 23 percent MoM, with February’s binge-watching volumes also 2 percent lower than the show’s monthly average in 2016.  

The only other show that saw lower binge-watching activity in February than the average for 2016 was Futurama, also down 2 percent in February compared to 2016’s monthly average. Neither show has released new content to the subscription video on demand (SVoD) platform in a while, so perhaps the reason for the binge-watching cuts is that the shows’ audiences have simply seen every episode available on Netflix.

The Office claimed second place for binge-watching and first place for casual viewership for the third month straight, accounting for 13 percent of the top ten most-binged shows and 18 percent of the top ten shows viewed in February. Friends came in third, also for the third consecutive month, with 12 percent of the top ten binge-watching in February.

Friends made the second most-viewed slot for the first time in January, and held onto the runner-up position in February. The show accounted for 13 percent of streaming of the top ten shows, which is also 51 percent increase over the monthly average streaming in 2016. Interestingly, The Office and Friends are the two top ten most popular shows with the largest increases in streaming during February, compared to the monthly average of 2016.

Family Guy fell to third place for casual viewership in December, and remained in that position during February as well, accounting for 13 percent of the top ten show views. Despite viewership decreases since the beginning of the year, Family Guy’s February streaming volumes were still 8 percent higher than the monthly average of 2016.

Collections 3 through 7 of Forensic Files aired on the SVoD platform on January 23 and rose to tenth place for binge-watching in February with 5 percent of the activity. This is the first time, since we began our analysis in January 2016, that the leading ten shows binged were not solely sitcoms. 

It’s worth mentioning that the Netflix original series Santa Clarita Diet debuted on February 3 and instantly climbed to ninth place for casual viewing in February, accounting for 8 percent of the activity.

Top 10 Binged Shows Top 10 Watched Shows
# Title % of Top 10 Title % of Top 10
1 Family Guy 16% The Office 18%
2 The Office 13% Friends 13%
3 Friends 12% Family Guy 13%
4 American Dad! 11% Bob’s Burgers 9%
5 Bob’s Burgers 11% Futurama 8%
6 Futurama 11% How I Met Your Mother 8%
7 How I Met Your Mother 8% Parks and Recreation 8%
8 Parks and Recreation 7% It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia 8%
9 It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia 6% Santa Clarita Diet 8%
10 Forensic Files 5% American Dad! 8%

Top ten Netflix Originals in February

With overall streaming down last month, Netflix Originals weren’t far behind, with viewership levels for the top ten original programs down 9 percent since January. Still, streaming volumes were larger than those of last February, with streaming of Netflix’s original programs up an impressive 56 percent year-over-year.

The MoM decrease was mostly caused by decreased streaming of A Series of Unfortunate Events, which debuted on Netflix on January 13, and Trollhunters, which debuted in late December. Troolhunters actually saw the largest audience drop in February, with binge-watching down 75 percent and casual viewership 65 percent lower than the monthly average for 2016. The drastic drops in audience that follow the traffic surge of a new season release (by roughly a month) is again evident in Netflix Originals.

On the flip side, three Netflix Originals released new seasons during February and made both top ten lists: Santa Clarita Diet, The Seven Deadly Sins and Dragons: Race to the Edge. Santa Clarita Diet debuted on the streaming platform on February 3 and came in first for both binge-watching and casual viewing in February, accounting for 32 percent and 37 percent of the activity, respectively.

Trailer Park Boys rose to second place with 13 percent of the top ten original programming binge-watching. However, February’s binge-watching volumes were 30 percent lower than the monthly average of 2016. And Arrested Development claimed third place with 11 percent of the top ten show binge-watching in February.

Season 4 of Dragon’s Race to the Edge aired on February 17 and claimed fourth place for binge-watching and third place for casual viewing, accounting for 9 percent of the streaming and binge-watching of the leading ten original programs in February. February’s binge-watching volumes were a whooping 337 percent above the monthly average throughout 2016, proving again that season releases cause instant audience surges.

The Seven Deadly Sins released its second season on February 17 and made both of February’s top ten lists. The Seven Deadly Sins came in second for casual viewing and sixth for binge-watching, accounting for 11 percent and 7 percent of the activity, respectively. 

Top 10 Binged Shows Top 10 Watched Shows
# Title % of Top 10 Title % of Top 10
1 Santa Clarita Diet 32% Santa Clarita Diet 37%
2 Trailer Park Boys 13% The Seven Deadly Sins 11%
3 Arrested Development 11% Dragons: Race to the Edge 9%
4 Dragons: Race to the Edge 9% Arrested Development 9%
5 Star Wars: The Clone Wars 9% Star Wars: The Clone Wars 8%
6 The Seven Deadly Sins 7% Trailer Park Boys 7%
7 BoJack Horseman 6% Voltron: Legendary Defender 5%
8 Trollhunters 5% A Series of Unfortunate Events 5%
9 Voltron: Legendary Defender 4% BoJack Horseman 5%
10 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 3% Trollhunters 5%

Bottom line: We saw very clearly in February how a new season drives big — if short-lived — audience gains. The excitement lasts about a month before dying down. Good news is that 2017 top ten audiences are larger than those for the same month in 2016, blunting a MoM audience loss from January. Will the MoM losses and YoY gains continue next month? Please come back to find out.

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