Netflix Experiment Shows Americans Are Spoilers


Spoilers are everywhere. The Internet is full of rapidly published recaps of television shows and sites where people comment about movie plots. Some may insist on spoiler alerts to stop reading, others love them. A recently introduced Netflix Website is an experiment to see how people feel about spoilers and use them shows Americans are far more prone to spoiling plots than Brits.

Netflix new Web site celebrates movie and TV show spoilers. Click on one of the options and watch the endings for favorite show. While a cool idea on its own merit, the site is actually an anthropological study on spoilers as well as how people feel about them and use them.

The interactive transatlantic study developed by cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken looks at the new social norms regarding spoilers. Still active, during his experimental phase, McCracken found Americans are gung-ho and overwhelmingly accepting when it comes to spoilers, whereas those in Britain are far more polite and reticent to ruin a plot for others.

Americans consider spoilers to be a social norm now. In fact, 76 percent indicated that spoilers are a fact of life, versus in the U.K., where only 24 percent do. Attitudes and habits clearly differ on both sides of the pond, because 72 percent of Americans believe spoilers are commonplace and okay now.

The Netflix study certainly makes Brits seems more polite. In fact, 82 percent of them claim to have never cheated and watched ahead on a series or film they promised to view with someone else. If they accidentally slip up and spill the beans on the next episode of Downton Abbey or Doctor Who, 58 percent of Brits feel guilty about spoiling a plot twist for someone else, but only 37 percent of Americans feel guilty.

It should be noted that maybe the Brits under-reported their spoilers or are more subversive about it. The study showed only 31 percent admitted they were a spoiler for someone else, but 60 percent reported that they had a plot spoiled by another person.

The research study was conducted late July in the U.K. with 2,421 adult participants. The U.S. research was conducted in early August with 2,023 adults aged 18 and older.

People can still play with the Netflix study’s Spoiler Alert Website. It contains quizzes on “What Type of Spoiler Are You?” and “Which Spoiler is in Public Domain?”

Netflix’ interest in spoilers reflects the changing viewing habits today. In the old days, people gathered at work the day after a popular show was on and discussed it. If someone missed the show, they welcomed being filled in because there were no other short-term options to catch up before the next episode. Now, when people watch shows on demand, not when they first air, things have changed.

Netflix has also changed the environment with its binge-watching capabilities and releasing whole seasons of House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black and other original shows on the streaming service. So, someone who watches an entire House of Cards season over a weekend could really spoil the season for others. President Obama famously asked people not to spoil the second season of House of Cards for him when it was released in February until he had a chance to catch up.

The Netflix Website experiment clearly shows how watching content is changing, besides the fact that Americans are bigger spoilers than Brits. Of course, just because they are commonplace, does not mean people should not ask if it is okay before spilling the beans (or spoiling the show).

By Dyanne Weiss

Netflix Spoiler Site
USA Today
L.A. Times
AV Club