UK: Two-fifths of viewers will wait for a show to end its run before starting to watch
March 10th, 2023, Mike Woods

UK: Two-fifths of viewers will wait for a show to end its run before starting to watch

The year of 2022 was underlined by many cancellations for various SVOD (subscription video on demand) platforms. Over 100 titles came to an end, often abruptly, disconcerting series' creators and viewers alike. Of the various active SVOD services, Netflix continues to generate headlines for its proclivity to draw the curtains on its next-season orders just one or two seasons in - and often, on a cliff-hanger.

In a recent YouGov Surveys study, nearly a third of adults in Britain (28%) who watch original shows on streaming services estimated that between one and three of such shows they started to watch since February 2022 were cancelled, despite ending with unresolved storylines.

Given the number of titles that face the axe without any notice, there has been widespread speculation that just because they don’t attract a high enough viewership in an arbitrary time period, series that are not mega-hits right off the bat are in rough waters. But do British viewers think it worth investing time in a show unless its already ended or until they know it's going to have a finished arc?

Two-fifths of adults in Britain who watch original shows on streaming services with multiple seasons and connected storylines (39%) say they always or sometimes wait for such shows to end completely (with the last episode of the last season or show finale available to watch) before they start watching.

Britons aged 18-34 and 35-54 are equally likely to agree with over one in ten (14% and 13% respectively) saying they always wait and about three in ten (28% both) saying they sometimes wait to watch such shows until they end completely.

On the other hand, nearly half of our respondents aged 55 and above (49%) say that it makes no difference whether the show has finished or not, while nearly a fifth of them (16%) never wait and watch each season as it releases.

A similar piece of research on the American market reveals that Britons (45%), overall, are more indifferent towards cliff-hangers and unresolved storylines than American viewers (34%).

A further analysis of the data to understand why this these viewers prefer to wait for shows to end completely before they start watching reveals some interesting nuances.

Britons (16%) are significantly less likely than Americans (27%) to wait for an original show by a streaming service to end completely before watching it for fear of the show getting cancelled mid-way. A quarter of adults in GB (24%) also prefer to wait for a show to end before streaming it because they do not like to wait for a new season if the previous one ends on a cliff-hanger.

Men (19%) are far more concerned about unresolved endings and incomplete story arcs than women (13%). On the other hand, our female respondents (26%) are far more likely to be bothered by the wait for a new season when the previous one ends on a cliff-hanger than our male respondents (22%).

Interestingly, women in Britain (57%) are also far more likely than men (43%) to wait for a show to end completely as they prefer to binge watch all seasons continuously, at once.

As part of this YouGov Surveys study, we also explore the British viewer’s propensity to watch a newly discovered series/show - on an SVOD platform - they find interesting, even though it only has one season which ends on a cliff-hanger.

More than half of adults in GB (54%) indicate that they would watch the first season of the show regardless of its chances of being cancelled on a cliff-hanger. While all age groups reflect similar opinions, Britons aged 35-54 (57%) are the most likely to agree.

On the other hand, knowing that a show may be cancelled with unresolved endings after the first season can reduce the chances of nearly a fifth of 18-34-year-olds and 35-54-year-olds (17%) watching it while stopping nearly a tenth (11% and 9% respectively) from watching the show at all.

Evidently, cancelling original shows before they reach a natural ending with resolved storylines is not as much of a pain point for adults in Great Britain.

However, with growing conjecture about streaming services like Netflix creating a self-fulfilling cancellation loop with series that could have gone on to become valuable catalogue additions, a question arises – are viewers in GB who ‘always’ or ‘sometimes’ wait to stream shows, willing to risk watching a newly released original show (or new season of an existing show) if it could prevent its cancellation?

And the answer looks promising. While more than a quarter of our respondents (26%) say they would be “definitely willing” to start watching a newly released show before it ends completely to prevent its cancellation, nearly half (47%) are “somewhat willing” to do the same.

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Methodology: YouGov Surveys: Serviced provide quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. This study was conducted online from February 3 – 6, 2023 with a nationally representative sample of 2,046 adults in the UK (aged 18+ years), using a questionnaire designed by YouGov. Data figures have been weighted to be nationally representative. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.