Netflix is getting a lot of things right, but there is one problem that hurts the original content: they do not release episodes weekly. In 2016, Netflix had released an estimated 126 original TV series or movies; a huge number that outstrips that of traditional cable channels. The original series span many genres, from successful dramas to series that tie into the MCU, comedy, reality, animation and more.
The Netflix original series and traditional TV does have one difference: while series on TV air week-to-week, a single episode at a time, Netflix prefers to release entire seasons at once. Outside of the US, there are many shows that are released on the streaming service one episode at a time.
THE BINGE-WATCHING PHENOMENON
Netflix is known for being the birthplace of the binge-watch. On the simplest level, binge-watching is fun. There is something about taking a day to curl up and watch an entire season in one go that is appealing. “Binge-watching” is recognized as having been popularized by the service, and is joined by terms like “Binge-racing” and “Netflix and Chill.”
Netflix is synonymous with the binge-watch, and it will be quite a shake-up for them to change the way that they release new series. Netflix is known for change, and for staying ahead of the curve. They have come a long way from the original mail-order DVD company, and another big shakeup may be the thing to keep them at the forefront of streaming. With other streaming companies now competing with Netflix (Hulu, Amazon, and Disney), they will have to make sure that the original series generate much more buzz than any other.
HOW BINGEING RUINS BUZZ
One of the biggest issues with releasing a full season at once is that it kills the buzz around the series. Some of the most popular shows can garner a massive amount of social media buzz; 13 Reasons Why tops the list with 3,585,110 social volume within the week of the premiere, while Luke Cage managed 1,016,152 and Stranger Things reached 507,192. While audience figures for Netflix are a secret, figures on social media buzz show that the streaming service knows how to get people talking.
The buzz around original series peaks pretty fast within the first week of the show dropping, and trails off quickly. Some were able to buck the trend, but not for the best reasons: a huge part of the buzz around 13 Reasons Why and the way that that buzz continued for quite a long time, was the controversy surrounding the show. A spike in searches for suicide and calls to take the show off Netflix caused the hype to continue, not the plot or characters of the show itself.
The bulk of media coverage and social media chatter on a series tends to be speculation. Reddit threads have been filled with fan theories and discussions of what will happen, casting news is always followed by debate. It is impossible to speculate when the episodes are available to watch.
SPOILER ALERT! RUINING THE SHOW FOR ‘SLOW’ VIEWERS
As well as losing viewers to the decreased buzz about a show, Netflix’s decision to drop full seasons might lose fans for another reason as well: the dreaded spoiler. While there is no set length/number of episodes that applies to series, popular drama shows have around ten hour-long episodes. That is ten hours of straight bingeing to watch a season when it drops. They appear on the service at midnight, and this means that anyone who wants to watch the full season spoiler-free has to pull an all-nighter.
So while binge-watching a season might be an enjoyable way for a few people to spend the weekend, most Netflix fans spend the days after a show drops spoilers. Even those people who make it through often find that by the time they find ten hours to spare, it is difficult to find other people to talk to online who have finished it on the same schedule. Compare this to shows like Game of Thrones, which has millions of people watching at the same rate, and talking about the show at the same time. Other fans might find the idea of having a full season to watch at once a little overwhelming.
WEEKLY EPISODES ARE THE WAY FORWARD
It is clear that although Netflix does a great job of drumming up interest in the original series, they will do a better job if they started releasing the series on a week-by-week basis. This is working for Riverdale, a show that is released on the CW on Wednesday evenings.
This show might be week-to-week because it is a series produced in partnership with another network but proves that Netflix can have a successful show that is not released a season at a time. There might be no plans to put the Netflix Original Series on a different schedule when they are not partnered with someone else, but seeing the success of those that are will surely aid the streaming service make the next big change.