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How I Used Data to Decide What to Watch Tonight

WhatToWatchOnTV

Most of us have been there, it’s evening and time for the seemingly ubiquitous existential decision which we often find ourselves facing: what to watch or listen to tonight. In my houseshare this is a monumental event which has been known to drag – and sometimes completely dominate an evening – as we meticulously trawl through the many options for shows/movies to watch. The infamous paradox of choice by Barry Schwartz; where more choice in fact ends up reducing our ability to make decisions.

It normally plays out something like this: 

Question: What about The Matrix?…

Reply: Nah too long  

Question: Master of None…

Reply: Watched it recently

Question: Bake off?

Reply: Not in the mood

Question: Ok, what do you fancy watching?

Reply: Don’t mind

*Sticks on repeat showings of Peep Show again* 

Off the back of this, I thought it would be cool to find out how others navigate the tricky matrix puzzle of finding content to keep ourselves occupied (obviously whilst we simultaneously scroll through Instagram). To do this, I decided to look at a comparison of the platforms that I use most; Netflix and Spotify Premium. I surveyed 400 UK-based users of these subscription services to find out if their quest for content discovery was as painful as my own. (You can check out the Netflix survey here and the Spotify survey here).

The first thing I was curious to find out was what type of content people are mainly using these services for:

Interestingly, other subscribers mainly use Netflix for movies (51%), whilst for Spotify playlists are the most consumed (53%). Whereas I mainly watch TV series’ on Netflix and listen to whole albums on Spotify. Forever the non-conformist, clearly. 

The next thing I wanted to find out – and the crux of this whole quest through data – was: how the hell do people find stuff to watch? 

How do you go about doing this, I hear you thinking. Pretty simple to be honest, I just asked. When asking subscribers where they go for recommendations for content to watch 69% of users find it by using Netflix’s own recommendations, for Spotify this is 62%. 

So, interestingly, subscribers rely on Netflix’s recommendations more than Spotify’s when they’re looking to broaden their content horizon. This is interesting, but I know from my own usage – as someone a bit obsessed with music and finding the latest content – I use Spotify a lot during the week (20 hours according to my iPhone app usage stats for the last week, gotta love data). I know that my habits when searching for the latest music are very different from some of my friends that may use it occasionally for the purpose of taking a walk down memory lane, to get nostalgic listening to the likes of Arctic Monkeys and the Kooks circa 2009. So I decided to divide the audiences based on the amount of hours into (eloquently named, I know): really heavy users (over 12 hours), heavy users (9-12 hours), light users (5-8 hours) and really light users (0-4 hours) across both platforms.

From this I found that there are: 

More weighty viewers – NET (heavy + really heavy) users of Netflix (40%) vs Spotify (29%). 

I decided to zoom in on the very heavy users, just because they use it most so it’s interesting to see their behaviours. When segmenting by very heavy users, for Netflix they rely even more on Netflix’ own recommendations, with 81% stating that they rely on Netflix, vs 67% for Spotify heavy users. 

Interestingly, reliance on social media goes up to 41% for Netflix heavy users vs 26% for Spotify. Also worth noting is the fact that, for Spotify, turning to friends for content ideas increases for heavy users from 39% to 48%. Basically, when really heavy users are looking for a new show to watch they are more likely to reach outwards to social media and Netflix recommendations, but when looking for something to listen to on Spotify they are more likely to reach out to their friends. But…why?! 

Netflix heavy users – social media and Netflix recommendations

I found when looking at Netflix’s very heavy users, they are constantly seeking out the best new content to consume. Similar to a foodie trying out new restaurants, they want to keep their finger on the pulse of the newest content. This inspiration comes in two forms mainly: Netflix recommendations and social media.  

In the eyes of consumers, Netflix’s recommendations are the work of a connoisseur – they’re like a sommelier of the content world, as shown by consumers’ own words: 

“It draws attention to what they think is best….and it’s in their best interests to get it right.” 

“It always gives me options that I may otherwise have missed when searching myself for something to watch.”

Social media offers a similar pull,  with the notion of “social media moments”. Social platforms have created a culture where viewers don’t want to miss out on the latest trend. The new hashtag culture and accompanying concept of “trending” indicates where consumers should be looking  – think “Bird Box” and the hype that surrounded that, which of course escalated to become the extremely dangerous “Bird Box challenge“. People are able to find out in realtime what the hot shit is, from their peers on social media. 

Spotify heavy users – friends that recommend

It’s worth noting that 67% of heavy Spotify users use Spotify recommendations to find new content, so it is still key and the notion of a connoisseur still stands:

“Spotify knows my taste and makes suggestions appropriate to my favourite musical genres.”

“The release radar and daily mixes are great to find new artists and albums.” 

However, the reliance on friends to find new content is an interesting dynamic to look into, as 48% of heavy users mention friends vs just 30% for Netflix. For some reason, amongst the heaviest users, finding new music is a responsibility best suited for friends. It could be the case that either: sharing music is inherently personal so music fans are more inclined to chat to their mates or it is linked to Spotify’s commitment to making it easy to share music by allowing users to share music in one click and create collaborative playlists. To be honest, it’s probably a combination of both. Spotify are aware of the appeal of sharing music with friends – creating event playlists are just one of many relevant cases – therefore they have enabled this through collaborative playlists. 

Final thoughts

Ultimately, it’s clear that as a very heavy user of Spotify and a heavy user of Netflix, in the case of Spotify, I’ll carry on with their collaborative playlist function to ensure that I can continue to share great music with my pals, but the key learning for me is that next time I’m stuck for my next series to binge on Netflix I could potentially look to my Twitter timeline for inspiration. No more repeats of Peep Show for my household…maybe. Nah season 3 is just too damn good to not rewatch. 

The insights shared in this article are based on a survey made up of 200 Netflix users and a survey made up of 200 Spotify Premium users, both of which were sent to a nationally representative audience in the UK. 

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