Every year, Netflix celebrates its massive subscriber base getting even more massive, which means many millions of people have experienced their first online binge-watch in recent years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the shows that first-time bingers are targeting are among television's most popular, and tons of people are flocking to the same core group of hit series. More surprisingly, though, is that Netflix originals account for fewer than half of the entries.
Known for keeping viewership info under deep cover, the streaming giant recently released a new study noting the top ten shows that new binge-watchers (from the past five years or so) have jumped into first after joining Netflix. 90% of subscribers have experienced such a first binge in the first year -- most take just three days, too -- so even without hard stats, these numbers are extremely interesting. Let's kick things off with some hospital drama.
As one of network TV's most dependable dramas, Grey's Anatomy has remained appointment viewing for a big percentage of the primetime audience, and Netflix is definitely part of the reason for that extended popularity. For anyone who missed out on Grey's Anatomy's early seasons the first time around and never funded DVD purchases, Netflix has been the perfect way for Meredith, Bailey, Christina and the rest to reach new fans at any given time of the year. And with the flagship series prompting more spinoffs on top of its own future seasons, Grey's will likely remain as big a hit for Netflix as it is for ABC.
Now in its 16th season, Family Guy is in the upper echelon when it comes to long-lasting TV comedies, which means Netflix subscribers have had access to hundreds of cutaway-filled episodes for all the binge-watching fun that one could possibly stand, both in the Fox comedy's pre- and post-cancellation runs. And because it's is the perfect kind of non-serialized and joke-filled show to throw on at any point of the day while doing literally anything -- at least for anyone who doesn't mind offensive jokes or Conway Twitty performances -- Family Guy is always ripe to be the source of someone's first Netflix marathon.
Nobody does TV horror quite like Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, whose American Horror Story anthology series has turned in a bonanza of strange and depraved moments. And those are just the kind of bonkers moments that Netflix subscribers eat up seasons like Roanoke's Polk family eats up...other things. Binge-watching American Horror Story can arguably be an even more enjoyable way to take in the supernatural thrills and chills, since cliffhangers can be solved quicker, while each season's less important episodes won't feel like such a time-suck. Plus, one can experience Bloody Face, the Minotaur and Papa Legba all in the same weekend, if one is so dedicated.
After locking down a sizable library of originally conceived series, Netflix dove into the "TV resurrection" game, which started with Arrested Development and certainly peaked with Fuller House, a continuation of the classic TGIF mainstay Full House that features 100% of the heartwarming schmaltz and 90% of the original cast members. Since its initial premiere, Netflix has touted Fuller House as a huge winner, and with more generations of TV viewers still getting into the flagship series for the first time (possibly also through streaming methods), the follow-up comedy will likely always have a built-in audience ready to return to the Tanner family home for its current seasons and beyond.
TV doesn't get more loud, macho or ruthlessly vicious than Sons of Anarchy, and so it's a good thing that audiences are obsessed with such adjectives. Kurt Sutter's biker drama was one of FX's biggest hits, and Netflix subscribers have maintained the show's popularity by using their subscriptions as a stepping stone into binge-watching all of the low-down and dirty wheelings and dealings that the SAMCRO crew had going in Charming, California. Seven seasons may seem like a lot, but time blows by extremely quickly when Gemma and Jax Teller are responsible for causing some chaos, and we're betting a lot of these folks made Sons of Anarchy their second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh binges as well. Especially after the spinoff hits FX.
Netflix's first original series came out the gate swinging with its corrupt politics and shifting power structures, so House of Cards is obviously one of the main shows that new Netflix users want to throw themselves into after signing up. Never lacking for shocking twists and morally imbalanced decision-making, House of Cards has faced a fair share of behind-the-scenes issues in recent months, thanks to sexual misconduct allegations against former star Kevin Spacey, but that possibly won't stop customers from tuning in with a similar frequency, since people are always fascinated by scandals like this. It will be interesting to see where House of Cards ranks on this list in a couple of years, though, after Season 6 has concluded.
When it comes to creating waves of fan buzz, arguably no Netflix show has captured more attention than the supernatural thriller Stranger Things, and its Season 1 was a definite high point in the recent surge of horror television. So it's easy to understand why Netflix's genre-loving new users would immediately take advantage of the company's spookier fare, especially when it's known that the hugely popular show will probably last as long as the creative team wants it to. (Likely only four or five seasons, but still.) Plus, Stranger Things' first-season episode count is a bit lighter than that of most TV premiere seasons, which presents another advantage for binge-watchers.
Entering the TV-sphere right as zombies hit a later stage of their pop culture takeover, The Walking Dead became an immediate smash in live-action, and though its grip on audiences has loosened up in the past couple of years, it remains one of TV's few remaining juggernauts. And if so many millions of people are watching weekly on AMC (which they'll be doing for a while), you know that means the crowd streaming The Walking Dead on Netflix is comparably gigantic. At this point, there are enough cord-cutters out there that announcements for recent Walking Dead seasons hitting Netflix are almost as noteworthy as the show's premiere dates on AMC proper. Having a six-episode first season probably also helps out for first-time bingers.
Experiencing Breaking Bad, one of television's most critically acclaimed and beloved dramas of all time, is basically an initiation to be able to talk about quality TV in public without being viewed as a heathen. Breaking Bad wasn't an immediate hit for AMC, either, having to build its reputation through word of mouth and awards cred. But Netflix has made binge-watching Heisenberg's evolution an effortless task, at least physically, and the complex and nuanced show has earned the distinction of being the second most-binged series by new Netflix users. In fact, Netflix' study revealed that 36% of people have gone on to rewatch their first binge, and we can't help but think that Breaking Bad would play heavily in that stat.
Though Regina Spektor wasn't talking about binge-watching in Orange is the New Black's theme song "You've Got Time," she certainly succeeded in nailing a double meaning there. With its blend of all-too-human drama and often ribald comedy, Jenji Kohan's female-ensemble prison drama Orange is the New Black consistently earns the time and effort of more new Netflix users than any of the streaming giant's other originals. And if anyone has the balls to ask why that might be, I'm sure Taystee, Red and Black Cindy would offer up one convincing answer or another. Audiences hate to get invested in a show that doesn't have a clear future, but with five past seasons and more to come, Orange is the New Black will be wowing new Netflix streamers for years and years.