Can Netflix viewer data support our education plans? The wildly popular internet brand with more than 100 million members in more than 190 countries recently published a press release about its global audience’s viewing habits. That audience enjoys more than 125 million hours of television shows and movies every single day.

What the data shows is insightful and somewhat surprising. It’s cool—okay, maybe even a little creepy—Netflix monitors such behavior. But for our purposes, it collectively tells us a story—one which illustrates our consumptions and changing habits shifting from the regimented schedules of broadcast TV and cable.

This on-demand viewing, where people are in control of what they watch and when, can possibly inform and complement our plans in education programming. We can extrapolate from the data certain consumer tendencies for content which remain the same. Even though Netflix is obviously focused on entertainment, consumer-viewing interest and preferences may remain consistent when considering their education and professional development consumption.

So, if we know something about what people like to watch on TV and how, we can use this to guide our education programming.

The Netflix Diet.

Based on an analysis of streaming data from 22 countries during a period of six months, as stated in the above-referenced Netflix press release, here are some salient finds:

  • Comedies are viewed over breakfast times with 34% of members likely to watch it at 6AM compared to the remainder of the day.
  • Drama is popular during midday. It accounts for nearly half of the viewing (47%) between noon and 2PM.
  • Thrillers are a top hit right before bedtime. When 9PM hits, there’s a 27% global increase of this genre.
  • Night owls love to learn with 15% of global streaming on Netflix occurring between midnight and 6AM, constituting up to 21% of streaming in Japan and South Korea. Views for documentaries skyrocket during this time, accounting for a 24% increase in streaming of documentaries like “Abstract,” “Making a Murderer” and “Planet Earth.”

What’s our take?

It’s interesting that during the hours we think are the “veg-out” hours of late-night viewing, people are watching educational content. Now, we don’t want to propose any radical conclusions here, but it may indicate people are too busy during their typical day to learn. This is something we see in our own global learning management system (LMS) activity. After dinner, in most regions, usage picks up. This is something to consider for live-programming webinars and events. Scheduling them during lunch time is meant to be convenient, but are they effective?

Key takeaways.

Late-night learning. If we assume many people reserve the late night to learn, we can consider altering our perspectives on when we present and offer webinars; scheduled, live content offerings; and instructor time.

Professional development and binge learning. Netflix data showed specific genres are preferred at certain times during the day, like comedies in the morning, drama at noon, thrillers at night. Although not an exact parallel to education, what if we took similar approaches to thematically building and releasing content due to its seasonality or interest level? This also impacts the types of content we may offer in regard to tone and message: some light-hearted, some more serious and some more formal based on time of the day.

When given the choice, people still want to learn. One of Netflix’s greatest strengths has been its documentary and educational programming, and this popularity is supportive of our education industry. People still want to learn, and do it at their own leisure. And if this is the case, we must find the commonalities in the types of education TV they like (documentaries for one) which may help us plan how to build e-learning content. These aren’t known for high production values. But, most have a level of authenticity and almost micro-craft feel which focuses on evocative imagery, strong writing and narration, and just real people. We know of clients taking similar approaches to give their subject matter experts the chance to narrate courses in their own voices (with some coaching on how to narrate) in place of professional narrators, and real videos instead of stock. This approach has proven successful.

It’s true. Binge watching doesn’t require the level of effort in application which binge learning does. But, with the appropriate strategies in mind, we believe we can successfully partake in leading most learners to be voluntary learners.

We’re interested in hearing what you have to say. Feel free to email me your thoughts.

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