Netflix Uncovers: We’re Too British to be Spoilers… Or Are We?



London, 22nd September: A new transatlantic online study commissioned by Netflix has shown that social conventions rule the roost in the UK with less than 4%* of Brits believing that it’s okay to spoil programmes for others, while for gung-ho Americans 76% say spoilers are a fact of life.

With the growing popularity of online streaming, ‘spoilers’ are fast becoming a way of life, but it is a trend we’re trying our best to buck in Britain, where we have a much stronger adherence to social conventions than in the US:

  • Less than 4% say it’s okay to spoil a plot line*
  • Less than a quarter (24%) of us Brits consider spoilers as just one of those things that we have to live with these days, compared to over three-quarters (76%) of Americans

In fact, we’re so conscious of not spoiling the plot, 82% of Brits** say they have never cheated and watched ahead on a show they promised to view with a friend or partner.  And, if we slip up, the majority of Brits*** (58%) admit they feel guilty after spoiling a major plot twist. This compares to the minority (37%) of Americans who feel guilty.

To better understand how and why people spoil shows, Netflix collaborated with author and cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken, who went into the living rooms of TV viewers across the United Kingdom and United States to get an in-depth understanding of their viewing behaviour.

 McCracken’s research in the UK found three stages to spoiling and, currently, Brits are doing their best to stick to Stage One:

  • Stage One: Contained & Coded; “At this stage the majority of people take care to try not to spoil.”
  • Stage Two: Share Aware; “Where the emphasis shifts to the ‘spoilee’ to protect themselves in order to avoid spoilers by sidestepping social media.”
  • Stage Three: Uncensored Spoiling; “Where spoiling becomes a way of life with social media providing the rumour mill as has been the case for shows such as Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, to name a couple.”


“The UK has a rich history of making great TV.  And over the past few years, writers and showrunners from other countries have started creating complex and morally challenging TV, too,” says McCracken.  “This new and improved TV is forcing a change in the way, the urgency, with which we talk about TV.  TV has, in effect, become more provocative of spoilers and more worthy of them.  While Brits are still more conservative in their TV conversation, we are seeing a less censored TV fan emerging here in the UK.”

And, with all the temptation to spoil, it appears that whilst we British know and adhere to the rules around spoilers, it seems we also know how to bend those rules. McCracken found that Brits are the masters of “Real-Time Subversive Spoiling” – where they can’t help but hint at upcoming plotlines they’ve already seen, when watching with others viewing for the first time.  For example, as a scene is coming up, a subversive spoiler may say something like, ‘Oh, you are going to love this scene’ or as a scene is actually taking place, they will say ‘Great, eh?’

Real-Time Subversive Spoiling might explain why the study also discovered that:

  • Whilst less than a third (31%) of us admit to being a spoiler, almost twice as many (60%) recall a plot having been spoiled by someone else

 This evolution is also largely due to the way we watch TV nowadays. “As TV evolves, consumer behaviour is evolving right along with it,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer for Netflix. “When we premiered all episodes of our shows like House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black all at once, across the world, it created a new dynamic around spoilers, even here in the UK.”


The research for Netflix was carried out online by YouGov between July 23 and 24 2014 amongst a UK national representative sample of 2,421 men and women from 18+ years of age. The United States research was conducted online between August 6 and 8, 2014 among 2,023 adults aged 18 and older by Harris Poll on behalf of Netflix via its Quick Query omnibus product. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

About Netflix

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