How often and why do Americans rewatch TV shows?

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
April 19, 2023, 9:39 PM GMT+0

From beloved classics to recent favorites, favorite TV shows and the reasons that keep Americans hitting the "rewatch" button on them are the subject of a new YouGov poll. The poll finds that half of American TV viewers rewatch shows they've seen before at least once a week, though most say they prefer new shows over ones they've already seen. The reasons most often cited for rewatching shows are their humor, the comfort they bring, and the relatability of their characters.

Most people who have rewatched TV say they get about as much enjoyment from rewatching a show as they did the first time they watched it. People who are frequent rewatchers are somewhat more likely than those who aren't to say they enjoy a show more upon multiple viewings. The poll also asked about participation in TV fandoms, finding that one in three Americans view themselves as belonging to a show's fandom. One in four say they actively engage in fan theories about a TV show.

How often do Americans rewatch TV shows?

Half of American TV watchers say they rewatch episodes of TV they've seen before at least once a week. Even though older Americans watch TV in general more often, they are less likely than younger adults to say they frequently rewatch TV. TV watchers without a college degree are more likely than college graduates to say they rewatch TV at least once a week. People who identify as members of a TV fandom, as well as people who say they engage with TV fan theories — two groups with considerable overlap — are more likely than TV watchers overall to say they rewatch shows on a frequent basis.

How many times have Americans rewatched the same season of a single TV show? Two-thirds of TV watchers say they've seen the same season of TV at least twice, and nearly half have seen the same season at least three times. One in 10 have seen the same season seven times or more.

Why do Americans rewatch TV shows?

American TV viewers generally prefer watching new shows (44%) over rewatching shows they've already seen before (13%); 43%, however, say they enjoy doing both equally. Younger Americans are more likely to prefer a rewatch: 22% of adults under 30 say they'd rather rewatch a show they've seen, compared to just 8% of people 65 and older.

Do Americans enjoy a show as much when rewatching it as they did the first time? Six in 10 Americans who have rewatched a TV show say they enjoy it the same amount upon rewatching it as they did during their first watch; 19% say they enjoy it more and 13% say they enjoy it less. People who rewatch shows at least a few times a week are more likely than those who don't to say they enjoy shows more upon rewatching them, and less likely to say they enjoy them less.

Humor, comfort, and character relatability are the most commonly selected reasons for rewatching TV, from among a list of 10 possible reasons offered in the poll. Large shares also cite the desire to catch previously missed details or plot points. More cite the accessibility of a show via a streaming service as a reason for rewatching than say they catch shows they've seen before because they play frequently on live TV.

Which genres of TV do Americans enjoy rewatching?

The poll asked Americans who watch TV which of eight genres they enjoy watching and separately asked the same question in regard to genres they enjoy rewatching. Certain genres — comedy, fantasy, science fiction — are more aligned in terms of the share of TV rewatchers who enjoy watching and rewatching them, while others — crime, documentary, drama — are more likely to be enjoyed in general rather than as a genre to rewatch, indicating lower relative rewatchability, possibly because of the significance of learning the ending of the story the first time. (No genre was enjoyed more for rewatching than for watching in general.)

How many Americans are members of a TV fandom?

While some people's love for their favorite shows goes as far as regularly rewatching them, others go even further, considering themselves to be members of a TV fandom. Our poll finds that one in three Americans (33%) consider themselves to be a member of a TV-show fandom, and 24% say they actively engage in discussing, reading, or creating fan theories about a TV show.

At least one in five Americans say they have memorized lines from a show (28%), followed social media accounts related to a show (26%), bought TV-show merchandise (21%), or posted on social media about a show (20%). Fewer say they've been a member of an online TV fan group (12%), dressed up in TV-related cosplay (8%), or attended TV-related conventions or in-person fan meetups (7%).

Which genres are most likely to be enjoyed by members of TV fandoms? Self-identified TV fans are more likely than people who aren't fans to say they enjoy fantasy, action, and comedy shows.

People who say they enjoy fantasy TV shows are especially likely to engage in the types of fan behavior asked about. More say they have done six of the seven activities asked about related to a TV show they're a fan of than people who enjoy any other included genre are. The one exception is following social media accounts related to a show: People who enjoy reality shows are slightly more likely to do this than people who enjoy fantasy.


— Carl Bialik and Linley Sanders contributed to this article

See the results for this YouGov poll

Methodology: This poll was conducted online on March 21 - 23, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 4%.

Image: Getty (Hector Roqueta Rivero)

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