Binge-watching isn’t just for millennials: study

The MTM's new research finds that binge-watching is increasingly popular with those over 50, and Netflix is now outpacing PVR and live TV.

If you’ve ever sat for hours in front of your TV set — or laptop, or mobile phone — devouring episode after episode of your favourite drama, comedy or doc series, you’re not alone. A new study by the Media Technology Monitor (MTM) found that 54% of Canadians have binge-watched a show in the past year.

The study, the second of its kind for the MTM, set out to determine how prevalent binge-watching — defined by the research organization as watching three or more episodes of a program in succession on any medium — is in Canada.

It sampled 12,000 Canadians (6,000 anglophone and 6,000 francophone) through telephone interviews during the spring of 2016. The last survey, conducted in spring of 2013, found that around 50% of Canadians were binge-watching.

Binge-watching isn’t just a once-in-awhile affair for TV fans. Of the percentage of Canadians who engage in binge-watching, 22% of those respondents report doing it more than once per week.

While binge-watching is on the rise slightly, the bigger change is the way in which people binge-watch their content.

Three years ago, the most prominent form of binge-watching was still through scheduled linear TV marathons (34%), followed by PVR and Netflix (both 27%), DVDs (14%) and online apps (13%).

The MTM has since changed some of the formatting of its survey, including combining PVR and scheduled TV into the same category (the two, combined, represent how 37% of respondents marathon their content). The biggest rise is Netflix, which now represents 46% of all binge-watching platforms.

While marathoning TV may be seen as a young person’s game, binge-watching is relatively spread out among age demographics. While 72% of those age 18 to 34 are binge-watchers (compared to 64% in 2013), the activity is creeping upward in older demographics ever so slightly.

These days, 58% of Gen X-ers (35 to 49) binge-watch (up from 53% in 2013) while 48% of people age 50 to 64 and 29% of those 65 and older do so (in 2013, 38% of those over age 50 reported binge-watching activity).

Although Netflix is seen as the primary SVOD in Canada, it may soon face some significant competition in the realm of binge-watching. Amazon recently launched its video streamer, Amazon Prime Video, in all global territories, making its vast library of movies and TV shows (including the Emmy-winning Transparent and Top Gear spin-off The Grand Tour) available in Canada for the first time.

However, with a penetration of 48% of Canada’s anglophone market (according to previous research by the MTM) established local competitors such as Bell Media’s Crave TV and the Rogers Media’s now-defunct shomi have barely made a dent in Netflix. Last year, the MTM found that of all Canadian SVOD subscribers, 80% subscribed only to Netflix, whereas an additional 13% subscribed to Netflix and one more service (7% to Crave TV, 6% to shomi). Only 4% subscribed only to shomi and 3% only to Crave.