FROM the notorious bathtub episode in Breaking Bad to the moment the lovable protagonist of Dexter kills his first victim, they are the scenes that turn fairweather audiences into box-set addicts.
A leading television provider has identified a series of so-called “hook” points that have helped turn small-screen series into cultural phenomena by reeling in viewers to watch entire seasons, sometimes in a single sitting.
The research by Netflix shows that seven out of ten viewers who make it through to a programme’s hook episode - usually found a few episodes into its maiden season - go on to complete the entire series.
By analysing viewing data from its subscribers around the world, the company was able to pinpoint the moments that helped convince audiences to stick with shows - often episodes that contained standout plot changes or striking scenes.
In the hit show Breaking Bad, which follows the story of Walter White, a chemistry teacher-turned crystal meth kingpin, it was the second instalment that got under viewers’ skins.
White is confronted with his victim and uses a bathtub filled with acid to dispose of the body, a decision that has disastrous consequences.
In the case of Dexter, the series about a serial killer, it took viewers three episodes to fall for the murderer as he relives his first kill.
Other shows, however, took longer to convince audiences to persist with them. Those watching the acclaimed drama Mad Men took until episode six of the first season to become addicted.
The research, which looked at what shows people streamed, found that the pilot episode of a series failed to provide any such hook moments, proving that debuts are not the make-or-break moments many in the television industry assume them to be, according to the firm.
Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, explained: “Given the precious nature of primetime slots on traditional TV, a series pilot is arguably the most important point in the life of the show.
“However, in our research of more than 20 shows across 16 markets, we found that no one was ever hooked on the pilot. This gives us confidence that giving our members all episodes at once is more aligned with how fans are made.”
While the hooked episode was relatively consistent with audiences around the world, the data highlighted slight geographic differences.
The Dutch tend to fall in love with a new series the fastest, getting hooked one episode ahead of most countries, irrespective of the show. Germans showed early appreciation for Arrow, whereas viewers in France fell first for How I Met Your Mother.
In Australia and New Zealand, meanwhile, viewers are the hardest to please, tending to hold out one to two episodes later than the rest of the world on almost every show.
Despite these differences, the hooked moment had no correlation to audience size or attrition, regardless of show, episode number or country.