Netflix research finds that people decide within 5 seconds whether to keep watching a show

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Omar Sy stars in ‘Lupin.’ Emmanuel Guimier/Netflix

Netflix has found that people decide whether they’re going to keep watching a show nearly the moment press play.

Christopher Mack, director of talent investment and development at Netflix, said during a recent event for creative professionals that the company’s consumer-insights team has found audiences subconsciously decide whether they’re going to watch a show within five seconds of starting it.

Mack, speaking at a workshop hosted by entertainment-industry network Stage 32, likened the behaviour to a blind date, in an analogy he borrowed from the consumer-insights team. A person walks into a bar, sees their date at the table, and subtly forms in opinion about them. Still, they sit down and start a conversation in the hopes of finding some common ground.

Just as people want to make a good first impression on date, job interview, or other social interaction, Mack encouraged TV creators to use the first few seconds of a TV show as an opportunity draw audiences in, and perhaps change their minds if they think the show is not for them.

Mack said to hook audiences with a teaser, or an opening scene that gives viewers a taste of the show’s central character, conflict, and world. He also suggested starting every episode with a teaser, unless the episode picks up directly after dramatic events the last episode left off on.

“This is your opportunity to get your first ‘yes’ with a teaser,” Mack said. “They may tune in and their mind might say this might not be a show for them, but there might be something in that teaser that makes them want to stick around and see what’s going on.”

Read more key takeaways from this Netflix presentation:

How to sell a show to Netflix with the help of an easily digestible pitch document, according to a workshop by one of the streamer’s execs