Is It Time to Kill the Opening Sequence?
A Case Study of Skippability Streaming

Is It Time to Kill the Opening Sequence?

A Case Study of Skippability

A Case Study of Skippability

Since the dawn of television, episodes of our favorite shows have started with catchy opening title sequences. However, with “binge-watching” running rampant and the ever-presence of the 'Skip Intro' button, we at Latitude wondered if developing a good opening sequence is still worth the time and investment.

To find out, we recruited 400 streaming subscribers to watch the opening sequences of some of the most popular shows of the current era. We measured viewer reactions in Lumiere and asked follow-up questions to gauge how effectively each sequence generated interest and provided enjoyment. Our criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of each sequence included entertainment value, skipability, music, imagery, audience demographics, and perceptions of overall quality.

Our results indicated that opening title sequences remain important, even in today’s changing world of streaming habits. A large majority of viewers stated that the quality of the title sequence is a factor in determining not only the quality of a show (88%), but also the quality of the streaming service overall (77%). Post-sequence-viewing recall of the show title was relatively high (74%), and almost everyone found the opening sequences in general to be “attention-grabbing” (88%) and “entertaining (84%).”

But which shows do it best? There are of course a number of criteria that one might use to evaluate the effectiveness of a title sequence. Here are a few of the winners, based on different measures of success that may be of interest to creators and producers.

Most Appealing for Young Adults - Cowboy Bebop

The ability to reach younger generations has always been key to launching a successful show, especially one featuring lesser-known IP. We examined the extent to which the tested sequences succeeded in this capacity, and Cowboy Bebop (Netflix) was a standout, specifically with viewers under the age of 35.
Given a list of seven attributes to choose from, younger viewers were most likely to rate this show’s sequence as “attention grabbing” (36%) and creating “excitement to watch the show” (28%). Additionally, younger viewers were more likely than older viewers to rate the sequence as “entertaining” (+8%) and contributing to overall enjoyment of the show (+15%). The 18-34 bracket continues to be an important demographic for creators and advertisers, and the Cowboy Bebop sequence seems to have hit the mark in this respect.

Most Captivating Music - Succession

There’s a lot to love about Succession (HBO / Max), including its musical score. In particular, the main title theme (composed by Nicholas Britell) is an effective, thought-provoking way to launch into an episode. More viewers (44%) selected “the music” as the most compelling element of this title sequence than any other show, and this result held across all individual demographics examined, including age, gender, and ethnicity. The Succession sequence also scored higher in “attention grabbing” than any other sequence, and the comments suggest that music was a major factor in this result. As a few viewers put it, “the music is intriguing, adding to the suspense” and “the music makes you curious about what the show is about and how the drama will play out.” Certainly, this unique, striking score will remain one of many memorable attributes of this award-winning series.

Most Effective Overall - Severance

Of all the opening sequences tested, Severance (Apple TV+) was the most successful in entertaining, engaging, and inspiring viewers to watch the show. The highest share of viewers described it as “very entertaining” (71%), suggested that it increased their interest in seeing the show (73%), and that it has appealing “intensity” (29%) and “imagery” (55%). But the most telling barometer of this sequences’ success is the fact that it was associated with the lowest percentage of viewers who suggested that they would hit the ‘Skip Intro’ button (11%). When asked what elements of the sequence were most compelling, viewers mentioned a wide variety of attributes - visuals, transitions, music, animation, suspense, cast. As one viewer put it, “there’s just so much to take in and look at!”

And really that’s the key to a successful opening sequence - creating a free-standing piece of entertainment that rewards rewatching and builds enthusiasm. The process is more complex than it was back in the 80s and 90s, as it takes more than a catchy song and a montage of show clips to grab attention. And yet, the results of this study suggest that when it’s done right, a good opening sequence is fully worth the effort, in that it adds to audience enjoyment and is considered to be an important indicator of overall show quality. 

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