Spoiler Etiquette: How Long Do You Need To Wait To Talk About Shows and Movies? [Survey]

All About Cookies surveyed 1,000 people to find out how they avoid spoilers, where most spoilers come from, and how spoilers impact their enjoyment of shows and movies.
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With the rise of streaming and VOD, it’s never been easier to watch new movies and TV shows. It’s also never been easier to stumble upon spoilers if you can’t watch a new show or movie right away.

Spoiler alert: People hate getting shows and movies ruined for them. But how can you stay protected from spoilers? What is a spoiler anyway? And how long should people wait to talk about movies and shows after release?

Our team at All About Cookies surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults to find out everything we could about spoiler behaviors, etiquette, and preferences.

In this article
Key findings
Where spoilers come from
What counts as a spoiler
How long people should avoid talking about spoilers
How people avoid spoilers
The consequences of spoiling shows and movies for others
Tips for watching content and avoiding spoilers in your own life
Methodology

Key findings

  • Spoiler etiquette: Wait at least five days to talk about TV shows, and seven days for movies.
  • Some topics are more off-limits than others: 63% of audiences prefer to know the general plot before watching, but only one in four people want to know specific details.
  • Stay alert: 62% of audiences change their internet habits to avoid spoilers. More than one in eight (14%) have missed work to avoid them.
  • Actions have consequences: More than one in three people (36%) have gotten into a verbal argument because of a spoiler. And 15% have had a friendship or relationship end due to one.

Where spoilers come from

The ubiquity of content and streaming has made it easier than ever to watch new media on demand. Combined with the more than 90% of Americans who are on social media, it’s nearly impossible to go even a day or two without running into spoilers for popular TV shows and movies.

71% of viewers have been victims of a spoiler. 23% admit they’ve intentionally spoiled something for someone else.

Is this a big problem? In short, yes. More than 70% of U.S. adults say they’ve had a show or movie they cared about spoiled in the past. The most common place for spoilers is, unsurprisingly, the internet.

More than 40% of respondents said they are most likely to encounter spoilers online. That’s followed by spoilers from friends (20%), family (13%), and significant others (11%).

A chart showing where spoilers come from most often. The options include things like family, significant others, media, and the internet.

The vast majority of internet spoilers come from social media. 41% of respondents identified Facebook as the most likely place on the internet to encounter spoilers, followed by TikTok (21%) and Twitter/X (16%).

What counts as a spoiler

So what exactly counts as a “spoiler?” Where is the line between “nice to know” and “you ruined it for me”? In general, respondents said it has to do with knowing specific information.

A chart showing what people think counts as a spoiler.

When asked which pieces of information they prefer to know or not before watching, endings were the biggest no-no. Nearly three out of four respondents prefer not to know how something ends, while just 19% of people said they want that information.

Other topics off-limits for many viewers are specific plot points or developments (59% prefer not to know), surprise cameos (49%), and, interestingly, what reactions others had to the show or movie (38%).

On the flip side, 63% of people broadly prefer to know the general plot of something they’re about to see. And 40% of respondents want to know what critics think.

How long people should avoid talking about spoilers

Most people agree you should wait at least a little while before talking about spoilers for new movies and shows. But exactly how long do people think is a reasonable amount of time to keep spoilers under wraps?

A chart showing how long people think you should wait before revealing spoilers for movies and TV shows.

Only 13% of people don’t believe in any grace period for discussing spoilers, meaning the vast majority of people (87%) believe in following some sort of spoiler etiquette.

For TV shows, respondents said you should wait five days before discussing recent releases, versus seven days for movies.

How people avoid spoilers

Though the number of people seeking out spoilers is higher than many would expect (44% for movies, 38% for TV), those people are still a minority. The majority of people prefer not to have things spoiled and try to minimize their spoiler exposure as a result.

A chart showing how viewers prefer to avoid spoilers, including by avoiding websites that might contain them as well as limiting time spent in public.

Given that the internet was the number-one place for spoilers, it’s no surprise that the primary way people avoid spoilers is by avoiding certain places online. 62% of people said they avoid some sites online, and more than one in five (22%) take it a step further and avoid the internet altogether.

17% of people have used a VPN to watch something as a way to avoid spoilers.

When it comes to interpersonal relationships, the best etiquette is the same as any other boundary: talk openly and honestly about it. 56% of respondents said they tell friends and family not to bring up hotly-anticipated media, while 46% take a more passive approach by ignoring texts and group messages near release-date.

Think it’s not that serious? A whopping 14% of respondents said they’ve taken time off from work to avoid spoilers.

The consequences of spoiling shows and movies for others

What happens when something is unwittingly spoiled? How do people react and how does it impact existing relationships between the spoiler and the spoilee? We asked people to share the consequences from getting or receiving a spoiler in their own lives.

A chart showing what consequences people have experienced as a result or giving or receiving spoilers.

In a surprising number of cases, spoilers manifest confrontation. More than one-third of people (36%) have gotten into a verbal altercation with someone as a direct result of spoilers, and 13% have gotten into an outright physical fight over them.

In some cases, spoilers have ended existing relationships entirely, both romantic and platonic. 15% of people say that they have had a friendship end because of spoilers, while nearly the same percentage of people (14%) have broken up with a romantic partner because of spoilers.

Tips for watching content and avoiding spoilers in your own life

If you’re particularly excited for a show or movie, then spoilers can be hard to avoid. Here are some great tools you can use to access your favorite content online before the spoilers come out:

  • Use a VPN to browse safely and access content. A virtual private network (VPN) is a great way to increase digital safety while also giving you access to geographically-blocked content. Using one of the best VPN services can let you watch content from anywhere.
  • Connect your Netflix account to a VPN. Knowing how to watch Netflix with a VPN can help you access more shows and stream securely, even if you’re away from home.
  • Shop for the best VPN possible. Not all VPNs are created equal. Our NordVPN review highlights one of the best options for an affordable, reliable VPN that works with some streaming platforms.

Methodology

To collect the data for this survey, our team at All About Cookies surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults in September 2023 via Pollfish. All respondents were U.S. citizens over the age of 18, and remained anonymous.

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Author Details
Josh Koebert is an experienced content marketer that loves exploring how tech overlaps with topics such as sports, food, pop culture, and more. His work has been featured on sites such as CNN, ESPN, Business Insider, and Lifehacker.