How Long You Actually Spend Browsing Netflix

by Eliza Castile

It's a running joke among anyone who watches Netflix (that is, basically everyone): We spend so much time weighing our options that sometimes picking a movie to watch takes longer than actually watching it. But how long do people actually spend browsing Netflix? If personal experience is anything to go by, the answer seems like it should be somewhere between "three hours" and "so long the Sun consumes the Earth in a fiery space explosion while you're still deciding between Jessica Jones and Daredevil ."

According to Netflix itself, however, that gives our attention spans too much credit. NBC News reports that researchers at the company recently analyzed the viewing patterns of its subscribers, and they found that the typical user browses between 60 and 90 seconds before giving up. Furthermore, we only consider 10 to 20 titles on a few rows of recommendations, and only three or so in detail, before moving on, presumably to other media platforms like Hulu or old-fashioned cable. (Do people still have cable?) The analysis, published in ACM Transactions on Management Information Systems, was conducted as part of Netflix's never-ending efforts to improve its recommendation system, which suggests content based on your viewing history — including your not-so-secret Gossip Girl addiction.

The company focuses heavily on the algorithms that decide what you'll watch next, especially considering that an estimated 75 percent of what people watch is based on recommendations. In 2006, Netflix offered a $1 million prize to whoever could best their algorithms; in 2009, the aptly-named Netflix Prize was awarded to an engineering group that improved their recommendations by 10 percent. According to Wired, there are 800 engineers dedicated to the recommendation system today, and earlier this week, Netflix announced the launch of a "global approach" to recommendations. Where suggestions were previously based on data from users in similar geographic regions, Netflix has begun to factor in users across the world.

"We saw that great stories transcend borders, and that viewers around the world have more in common than they may realize," the company wrote on its website.

With all the work they put into its personalization, it's no wonder that most of us would rather spend Friday night with Netflix and a glass of wine. It's almost enough to make a girl want to branch out from rewatching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt... Almost.