Unlike Netflix Subscribers, HBO Viewers Aren’t Binge Viewers

At the D: Dive Into Media conference over the last few days, we’ve heard a lot of executives discuss the big paradigm shift of binge-watching being brought about thanks to Netflix and DVRs. But not everyone loves to watch TV that way. According to HBO President and COO Eric Kessler, binge viewing is an edge case for its viewers.

“Only about 6 percent of our viewers binge-watch our shows,” Kessler said. Despite the large amount of content that is available through its various on-demand offerings and its HBO Go streaming service, he said HBO viewers really only binge watch in the lead-up to the launch of new seasons. For instance, the third season of Game of Thrones will premiere next month, and HBO viewers who might not have watched the show will catch up to become part of the conversation when it launches.

That’s key, as the company seeks to get more subscribers tuning in for various new series episodes, and talking about them. And, in fact, the social media aspect is one reason why HBO probably won’t follow the Netflix model and start releasing all of its serialized TV episodes all at once.

Kessler noted that HBO TV shows typically kill off major characters. Releasing all the episodes at once would not only lead to huge spoiler problems, but it also means that its shows wouldn’t benefit from the typical weekly watercooler conversation that occurs.

And that’s especially important, since the vast majority of HBO viewing still happens live. Kessler said that 80 percent of viewing happens on HBO live, with about 16 percent happening through cable VOD. Just 2-3 percent comes through HBO GO viewership. Until that changes, HBO will want to keep its viewers coming back week after week.