Everyone loves a good binge right? I mean sure it’s fun, sitting down and watching an entire season within a day or over the course of the week but is this style of distribution beneficial in the long term? I personally prefer watching all the episodes at once. I mean I literally spent all of 4th of July binging Stranger Things 3 and it was a fun experience for sure but I often wonder what that experience would’ve been if the episodes had been released weekly. Honestly, I think Stranger Things is just made to be binged based off it’s storytelling format but that’s another story for another time. As we see new streaming networks emerge, we’re starting to see a majority of new platforms stick to the weekly releases we see on live cable TV. A good example of the weekly model is Disney Plus’s The Mandalorian. Disney choose to distribute the episodes weekly instead of all at once. Let’s be real here, I’m pretty sure Disney did this so people wouldn’t just ditch the service after binging all the episodes at once. I felt writing an article on these two models would be interesting and with new streaming services rising, I felt it would be interesting to compare the two methods of releasing episodes. I will add that Hulu has followed suit with Netflix of releasing episodes all at once but once in a while they will do weekly releases.
“The Binge Method” (All Episodes At Once)
The Binge Method, mostly used by Netflix, is dropping all episodes of a season at once. Another network that follows this is Hulu, although sometimes they switch to weekly releases depending on the series. Now, I will be honest and say I do love to binge all episodes. It feels like an event, mostly for Stranger Things, and styling episodes like an 8-10 episode movie keeps you on the edge of your seat. This seems to be Netflix’s staple way of distributing content and they offer so much there’s a new series every week, which is great, however I think this method results in shows not having much longevity. People will usually binge it all at once and then the season is over, there’s nothing to talk about and the hype fades out very quickly. I remember when Stranger Things 3 came out, there was so much hype going into it and it felt like a huge event but then a few weeks later, the hype was almost nonexistent. Why? Because everyone had watched it and it was just old news. Another concern I would have, if I were Netflix, is people just signing up to binge a whole season and then cancelling right after. This is a common practice people do, which is probably why other networks like Disney+ do weekly releases. Another con I want to point out is it’s harder to appreciate episodes when you binge them all at once. You just keep going to the next episode and you can’t speculate as much about what’s going to happen next. People might be a few episodes behind, so you can’t say anything or else you will spoil. It’s harder to keep the momentum going. Now, I’m not sure how Stranger Things would work on a weekly basis because it’s styled like a 8-9 episode movie but having weekly episodes might of kept the hype going longer than only a few weeks. So while there are some pros in this method, I think there’s more cons from a business perspective.
The Weekly Method (Weekly Episodes)
The Weekly method is the typical method that most standard cable networks abide by which is distributing episodes one by one on a weekly basis. Disney+ and DC Universe are the top platforms that come to mind for doing weekly episodes. All of the shows on Disney+ are usually weekly including, The Mandalorian. Now, I will say I was kind of annoyed they were doing weekly releases because I honestly just love to binge but it makes sense why they followed this format. Doing week by week releases, allows people to soak in an episode and take in what they’ve been given. It allows more engagement because viewers can theorize and talk about what happened, which in some ways allows there to be more hype. It’s easier for people to catch up and from a business perspective, people will stay subscribed as long as the show is being released. With The Mandalorian, people stayed subscribed to Disney+ for the 8 episodes that aired then cancelled shortly after. Regarding that, Disney+ will really have to keep reasons for people sticking around. I do know Netflix does do some weekly releases though for certain shows, it’s just not common for their platform. To sum this up, there are more pros to weekly releases because it keeps subscribers subbing and allows there to be more engagement therefore keeping the hype going. Another perfect example is Game Of Thrones, literally everyone at school talked about it when a new episode would air. It still felt like an event and it was released weekly. Overall, I think this method has many pros but at the same time people might prefer to wait to binge.
So Which One Is More Beneficial In The Long Run?
Wrapping this up, I think the answer is obvious which method is more beneficial. Drum rolls please…….it’s the weekly method. Dropping episodes at once is great and there is a bunch of hype but it doesn’t last as long as releasing episodes on a weekly basis. From a business perspective, it’s healthier to keep the hype going by dropping episodes week by week. However, in order for this to actually work, the shows need to be solid enough to keep people coming back on a weekly basis. The thing about streaming though is you can watch whenever because it’s on a streaming platform, it’s not being aired at a specific day and time. Now with shows like Stranger Things, it might be harder to do this because it is styled like a movie and it would be weird to see it being released weekly but honestly I think it could work. Keeping people wanting more would not only increase engagement and hype but also keep subscribers coming back. It’s a healthier method in the long term and I know people won’t like what I’m going to say but I think Netflix needs to start switching to weekly releases. We are used to getting everything NOW and sometimes it’s not bad to wait. It gives us something to look forward to and we appreciate each individual episode better. I know for my project I’ve been working on, it would be weekly releases. I remember when I watched Pretty Little Liars weekly and it was just a fun experience despite that show being an absolute mess (I mean that in the nicest way possible). Tweeting about it, theorizing, and getting excited for the big finale was just a fun experience that I always looked forward to. It’s something for networks to think about. Longevity and hype is the key to a successful run but keeping your audiences on the edge of the seats and engaged makes it even better. It will be interesting to see how networks approach their distribution strategy as the streaming wars/duel heats up.