Not Done or Not Telling? When Did Fans Finish House of Cards?
It seems quaint now, but in February 2013 when Netflix debuted House of Cards by releasing the entire season at once it was controversial. There were expectations that the show would be released on a traditional weekly basis. Industry analysts were confused. How could this gambit to drive new subscribers be successful if the show could be viewed in a weekend and the subscription immediately cancelled?
Netflix was holding all the cards. They had years of data on their viewer's habits and knew that this was a different model entirely. Remember Breaking Bad? That show wasn’t a cultural sensation immediately. It rose to fame because it's awesome, but also because the show released the previous seasons on Netflix before the newest seasons debut. This allowed people to catch up quickly and drove anticipation for new episodes.
Since the House of Cards debut, the practice of binge watching has gone from a guilty pleasure to a widely accepted behavior. I’ll admit it; I wrapped up the season on Sunday morning, but this puts me in the minority of people who shared the news on social media. On Twitter and Instagram only .33% and .34% of the House of Cards conversation included announcements about finishing the show.
I determined this by analyzing a lot of data from this past weekend. This included 100,000 #HouseofCards tagged posts on Instagram and every House of Cards related Tweet from Friday through Sunday. So yes, less than a third of a percent of House of Cards fans were willing to proclaim their feat. I was also overzealous in my viewing because the peak of people mentioning they had finished occurred at 10PM CT on Sunday night.
Of the people who were brave enough to come forward, when did they finish watching? The peak of mentions occured at 10PM CT on Sunday night. We grouped content by day and looked at when words such as “finished” or “done” where used to see as a whole how long the most obsessed viewers took. Of the small percentage of people who announced finishing the show, here's the break-down of when they shared the news:
A Netflix Powerhouse
I mentioned earlier that Netflix has an entirely different model from traditional broadcast services. As a public company they are required to release subscriber information, but not specific viewership numbers. I did a quick analysis of around 5,600 Tweets from @Netflix and @HouseofCards to see how House of Cards related content performed compared to the rest of Netflix Tweets. Doing a comparison like this can help us work backwards and figure out the shows relative popularity.
— House of Cards (@HouseofCards) February 26, 2015
When @Netflix publishes House of Cards content to Twitter it is Retweeted 341 times on average, which is 18% more than their other content items. Still, that’s nothing compared to @HouseofCards which sees over 1,000 Retweets on average for its original content. That’s 247% more Retweets than @Netflix content that’s not related to the show.
For fans of the show this is very good news. Shows like this are expensive and very complicated to make and Season 4 hasn’t been confirmed yet. Reading these tea leaves, we have some confidence that at least one more House of Cards season being made.
Brands and #OneNationUnderwood
Brands were definitely on-board with this weekend’s festivities, making clever content and commentary as the big day arrived.
— Cottonelle (@cottonelle) February 27, 2015
The replies to this from Cottenelle were not forgiving, but it was the most retweeted item by a brand over the weekend and the sixth most Retweeted #HouseofCards related content. While cringe inducing, it did find an audience.
— Stella Artois (@StellaArtois) February 27, 2015
I have doubts that the Stella Artois Chalice is as conniving as Claire Underwood, but this was a winner from their team.
— Samsung TV USA (@SamsungTVUSA) February 28, 2015
And another good Tweet from Samsung who has figured out how to view 26 hours of content within 24, but it doesn’t look like they’re sharing the secret with the rest of us.
— FEMA (@fema) March 2, 2015
And in case you were wondering about the Stafford Act, @FEMA provided an explanation. And with that, around 340 careers in arcane public policy were launched.
Three years later and House of Cards is still setting trends. The show continues to redefine the media landscape. HBO has suggested that, perhaps this year, a cable contract won’t be a requirement to view their shows. YouTube is reaching out to their most popular users to increase their budgets and the quality of their “shows”. House of Cards won’t last forever. Every other network won’t begin releasing their all their shows in their entirety, but Netflix defies convention and its success validates their strategy.