When in the UK, Provide Spoiler Alerts, Says Netflix

/ Sep 22, 2014

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Apparently, people in the UK are a lot more serious about keeping their favorites series’ plotlines a surprise. Brits frown upon spoilers (only 4% think they’re kosher) while a hearty 76% of Americans say go ahead, tell us the twist, we’re going to hear it anyway.

Who would bother to collect data on spoiler alerts, anyway? A cultural anthropologist and a major provider of streaming video, of course. Netflix worked with author Grant McCracken, taking data from a sample of 2,421 UK adults (18 years and older) and 2,023 US adults in July and August 2014, respectively, using Netflix’s Quick Query omnibus product. They found that those in the US are much more accepting of the spoiler.

In the US, all you have to do is talk to your friends/co-workers to find several people who have watched ahead on a show they vowed to view with someone else. Meanwhile, in the UK, 82% of those surveyed said they had never done such a ghastly thing.

The Brits who did end up video cheating on their friends or partners reported guilt for the most part, with 58% of them saying they felt bad for sneaking around. In the US, only 37% of video cheaters felt shame for their actions.

These trends may go back to some deep-rooted differences in the moral compasses of the countries’ inhabitants. (Those with looser morals live in the US?) However, that may not be the whole story. As anthropologist McCracken uncovered, those in the UK managed to be more subversive with their spoiling, doing so alongside viewers who were watching episodes for the first time — in other words, spoiling in real time.

Also, while under a third of people in the study admitted to spoiling series for others, 60% noted that shows have been spoiled for them.

As Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, points out, “As TV evolves, consumer behavior is evolving right along with it. When we premiered all episodes of our shows like ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Orange Is the New Black’ all at once, across the world, it created a new dynamic around spoilers, even here in the UK.”

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