The saving grace for many during the pandemic-fueled year we have just endured has been the escapism of streaming television series, movies and documentaries. In 2020, lingo such as social distancing, lockdowns and quarantine became daily topics of conversation and our new normal. This was good business for streaming sites like Netflix NFLX -3.7% and Hulu as subscribers just couldn’t get enough.
In fact, our schedules were so out of whack that in May it was reported that Monday was the new weekend as quarantined households binged more and more content. Per Comcast CMCSA -0.3% at the time, this was causing noticeable shifts and new behaviors in television viewing patterns with millions of Americans watching more than an extra workday’s worth of content per week (eight additional hours of content per week than in early March) with streaming/web video up 35%. For the average household, this equated to 66 hours of binge-watching per week and this was without live sports. The consumption of news programming also increased by 64%.
As we near the finish line of this incredibly challenging year, we’re facing even more stringent lockdown measures, leading consumers to continue streaming content. TV Time, which has 15 million registered app users worldwide, surveyed those based in the U.S. to see which new Netflix original series and limited series were binge-watched the most.
Of course, returning hits such as The Crown and Dead to Me were watched en masse by ardent fans but for the sake of this list, viewers were specifically asked about series that were new to the streamer in 2020 and this included first seasons, as well as series meant to be limited. And recently premiered series like Selena, for example, are being binged in high numbers but are too new to make this year’s list.
Here are the 10 most-watched new Netflix originals and each show’s specific genre:
1. Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (Reality)
2. Locke & Key (Drama)
3. Space Force (Comedy)
4. Outer Banks (Drama)
5. Love Is Blind (Reality)
6. The Queen’s Gambit (Drama)
7. Never Have I Ever (Dramedy)
8. Ratched (Drama)
9. The Circle (Reality)
10. Sweet Magnolias (Romance)
According to the team at TV Time, the five top genres can be broken down as follows: Reality (32%), Documentary (29%), Comedy (18%), Drama (13%) and Crime (12%). Of note, since many shows can easily fit into more than one genre, the percentages exceed 100%.
Per Senior Media Analyst at Comscore SCOR -1.6%, Paul Dergarabedian, the increase in digital consumption during this time should come as no surprise and though physically isolated, people yearn to be a part of what everyone is talking about online. “Great content drives the social conversation and as the binge-watching of great shows is a natural byproduct of the pandemic-challenged marketplace, so too is the desire to become part of the virtual conversation surrounding a show like The Queen’s Gambit, and this has helped to form a sense of community built around a common interest even as most humans are isolated and sequestered at home.”
Though stream times for original programs were up, the industry still faced its share of challenges, which continued into the third quarter of this year with a decline in household viewership. “There was a limit to original content during the pandemic because of production being impacted by Covid-19,” says Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder of TV data and measurement company Alphonso, Raghu Kodige. He’s speaking specifically of trends for OTT originals. “In October we saw an uptick in viewership and viewers after a long time due to the return of original programming. This indicates a brighter time for new originals on streaming platforms.”
It will be fascinating to see how the pandemic impacts the production of new content, as well as viewing patterns for consumers as we enter the new year. In trying times people long for the escape of great entertainment and the connection of sharing the shows and movies they’re watching with like-minded fans.