Why Netflix Is Starting to Discourage Binge-Watching
The weekly release format is having a revival
The 10th season of The Great British Baking Show debuted on Netflix last Friday, but viewers accustomed to watching rattled Brits stir soufflé mix for 10 straight hours had to find something else to watch after just one. That’s because this season, Netflix is taking a page out of the old cable television playbook, and only dropping one episode a week.
HBO has released one episode per week for years. That’s original programming though; Netflix doesn’t produce The Great British Baking Show. The beloved show airs on Channel 4 in the U.K., and since Netflix acquired the rights from PBS, American viewers have made do with entire seasons at a time, released months after the show has finished. This model, Netflix must’ve decided, didn’t make too much sense. Reality shows are predicated on manufactured suspense, and while American viewers are still four days behind British viewers, they can now somewhat watch it in real time, and participate in the online conversation around the show.
Beyond reality shows, though (Netflix plans to give rapping program Rhythm & Flow the same treatment), we’re interested in how this might impact Netflix’s original content going forward. One of the platform’s most successful shows, Stranger Things, is traditionally released all at once, on a date pegged to the events in the show. (The second season took place in October/November and was released on Halloween, the third season takes place over a summer and was released on July 4th of this year.) That’s a smart marketing ploy, but consider the media machine that drove Game of Thrones over the years. Those weeks of suspense launched columns, podcasts, and an unhealthy number of subreddits. If Netflix wants to capture that level of devotion, they should test out the week-to-week method for original programming, too.
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