How ‘Orange Is the New Black’ Became Netflix’s Most-Watched Original Series

As Orange Is the New Black enters its seventh and final season, it can now boast 20 Emmy nominations, four wins, and the astronomical statistic that Netflix has just released: Over 105 million users have watched at least one episode of the show, making it Netflix’s most-watched original series

Orange Is the New Black assisted Netflix in ushering in a new wave of how viewers digest television, as they “binge-watched” season after season of the diverse cast changing the culture of TV as we know it.

Up ahead, we explore how Orange Is the New Black attracted millions of viewers, garnering huge success for the streaming service over the years. 

Together, ‘Orange Is the New Black’ and Netflix took America by storm

Although Netflix began as an online DVD rental service in 1997, they are now a far cry from those humble beginnings. In 2007, they began streaming TV and movies straight to customers devices. This on-demand programming made it superior to brick and mortar stores, an innovation that helped to end the video rental business, completely. 

In 2013, the company began competing with networks and cable TV directly for original content. Netflix gave the showrunners and producers so much creative leeway, that it is no surprise that such critically acclaimed shows came out exclusive to the streaming service. 

Orange Is the New Black cast
‘Orange Is the New Black’ cast | Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

The original content was released as entire seasons, all at once — something that had never been done before.“Binge-watching” became a thing and social media took it a step further by allowing the user to share what they were currently doing on a Friday night with phrases like  “Netflix and chill.”

Although Orange Is the New Black was not the very first of its kind (House of Cards came first), it quickly picked up increasing amounts of viewers after it was released in June 2013. 

The diverse cast of women on ‘Orange Is the New Black’ are so relatable

The sheer plethora of women on the show defied television history — black, Latin, white, Asian, transgender, cisgender, mature, young, skinny, curvy, tattooed, pierced, and scarred. All these bodies are powerful, transgressive, marginalized, and desirable at the same time. Orange Is the New Black dramatically expanded the parameters of what types of bodies can and should take up space on television in the United States. 

Then, the show gave viewers in-depth stories about these women that were relatable and real. Fans of the series connected with them and every episode left them wanting to know more. 

‘Orange Is the New Black’ changed the culture of television and even changed lives

Laverne Cox, who plays Sofia Burset, credits Netflix for changing the culture of television. She told People, “I have had the incredible privilege of meeting our incredible fans all over the world, who have said that this show has changed their lives, for the trans people who’ve watched our show. When Orange Is the New Black premiered in 2013 there were no transgender actors with recurring roles on television. Last we checked, at this moment, there are about 17 or so. That is just amazing and I just feel that we have changed the culture.” 

In an interview with Color Lines, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, the executive editor at explained how Orange Is the New Black sets itself apart from other shows with its portrayal of Sofia Burset (Laverne Cox) and examination of trans and lesbian sexuality. “I think the trans story line [sic] is really powerful,” she told the publication. “You can really tell that the sex scenes aren’t voyeuristic for straight people. It is about survival, female relationships, having sex as a sort of relief in captivity for pleasure and enjoyment, and for feeling less alone in an environment of incarceration.”

In the past six years of the series, the show has helped people of all races, genders, sizes, and ethnicities to gain a voice. It is no wonder it is Netflix’s most-watched original series.