January 27, 2021

Analyzing Bridgerton: The social engagement of the season

Dear Reader,

Like many viewers lately, our team has been hooked on Bridgerton, Shondaland’s first Netflix offering centered around high society life in Regency-era London. Even before it dropped, we were curious how the much-anticipated series would perform head-to-head with other major releases from newer streamers this past Christmas (more on that in this recent tweet thread). However, in the weeks since its premiere, we’ve noticed something unique about Bridgerton: this show has created an insatiable desire for more period dramas, causing audiences to seek out new options across the broader content landscape. Other publications have noticed this as well, prompting several articles with suggestions for what fans should feast on next.

We wondered what it was about this show that sparked this particular appetite, and found that Bridgerton brought a new, highly-engaged audience to Netflix. Because Netflix doesn’t house a lot of companion content, this unrequited desire for more inadvertently encouraged platform-hopping behaviors.

Audience Profile:

Bridgerton brought a unique and content-obsessed audience to Netflix. In fact, 33% of the Bridgerton audience were brand new to Netflix within the last year, while 44% re-engaged with Netflix after a months-long hiatus because of the show. What’s more, among this audience, only 27% of the shows and movies they’ve engaged with are Netflix originals, meaning that the overwhelming majority (73%) of content they interact with is on other platforms. Even so, their enthusiasm for Bridgerton has caused the show to be the #1 most-engaged-with show nearly every day since it premiered. Throughout the year, this audience has primarily engaged with unscripted reality shows, such as The Bachelor and The Real Housewives of Potomac, comedy-dramas like Insecure and the streaming DJ battle series Verzuz. This paints a picture of a large and active audience, which is advantageous for a household brand like Netflix, but also suggests that the audience’s interests might be underserved on the platform.

What Next?

After binge-watching Bridgerton, viewers were left hungry for more, creating a shift in the conversation away from the actual show to what else they should watch. In our analysis, 574 other shows were mentioned in the conversation about Bridgerton, 14% more than other recent streaming shows. Of those recommendations, 36% were Netflix offerings, coming in under the average of 50% of suggestions being from the same platform. This demonstrates that Bridgerton not only generated more suggestions, but also that these encouraged engagers to move away from the base platform. In fact, one of the top suggested period dramas, the lesser-known (until recently) Sanditon, catapulted into our weekly top ten shows, with historical drama fans asking where they could watch it and reigniting calls for a second season. This is interesting because Sanditon is currently only available in the U.S. on PBS’s streaming service, so audiences were being directed away from Netflix in order to fulfill their content appetite.

Why did Bridgerton spark such a sudden and voracious interest in similar shows? The data suggest that it could be temporal; with people taking time off around the holidays, there’s a larger opportunity to binge multiple series. Interestingly, the peak for suggestions was the day after the premiere (which was also a Saturday), supporting the idea that audiences devoured Bridgerton and were immediately hungry for more. Another idea is that Bridgerton, like Netflix’s other 2020 hit The Queen’s Gambit, is part of an under-served and unique genre — period dramas with modern themes — so people had to crowdsource recommendations.

Why This Matters:

These trends highlight a key problem for streaming platforms: Consumers are savvy and follow the content rather than the platform. With a recent study that consumers, on average, subscribe to seven streaming platforms (free and paid combined), they can easily hop from one platform to another depending on what they want to watch. Our data show that Netflix still ranks as the top engaged-with streaming platform among its audience, but its share is being encroached upon by new entrants. As displayed in the chart, the Netflix total audience is branching out to other streaming platforms; their share of platform content consumed shifted from 37% Netflix at the beginning of 2019 to 29% in December 2020, while the share of other streaming platforms grew from 7% to 19% in the same time frame.

As streamers invest in new content, conducting portfolio analyses can highlight underserved areas and provide opportunities to license additional material. Having tentpole and companion content at launch could entice both new and existing users to stay engaged with the base platform. Decisions like this, fueled by pre-premiere research and analytics, will be increasingly important as streamers battle churn.

Takeaways (For Society’s Next Season):

Untapped audiencesBridgerton brought a huge, unique and content-obsessed to Netflix, a remarkable feat for a service with such a large existing user base.
Serving content – After bingeing Bridgerton, the audience was hungry for more, which inadvertently encouraged platform-hopping as users searched for related content.
Fighting churn – Users go where the content is, and platforms can leverage insights like these to determine how to attract and maintain audiences – or how to poach diehard fans hungry for more!