I just had a guest article published at Decider, this time asking, “Should Netflix keep binge releasing all its series?” My conclusion: not all of them. Essentially, Netflix is leaving “awareness” on the table.
Take a read and share on social media. Also, shout out to Alan Wolk, who tackled this back in the spring with Game of Thrones. I’d been toying with this idea when I read his take, and tried to update his thesis with the Stranger Things data point.
Like all long articles I write, I had two ideas that didn’t fit in the main piece. Here they are.
Has Hulu’s Weekly Release Helped?
It’s tough to say. Here’s the brutal case against it:
Frankly, The Handmaid’s Tale is their most popular series and it’s clearly a lightweight to the Game of Thrones/Stranger Things heavyweights. So let’s drop those two, and throw it up against some similar competition.
That’s better. And you can see the same weekly interest boost that Big Little Lies and Game of Thrones had, just on a different scale. Instead, I still think that Hulu is just much, much smaller than Netflix right now. (Which, yes, isn’t breaking news.) Or about where HBO is, given that the interest almost matches something like Big Little Lies.
The counter to the binge model, though, could also be this chart. If The Handmaid’s Tale had dropped on one weekend, would Hulu even have a chance to keep it in the conversation? I don’t think so. In this case, Hulu made the right decision. This naturally leads us to ask about not just the current streamers, but the future streamers.
What Should the DAWN (Disney, Apple, Warner and NBC) Streamers Do?
Well, it depends on who you are and what your business model is, but overall, I’d be flexible. If you have a show with tons of pent up demand—like the upcoming Lord of the Rings on Amazon—consider weekly releases for the first season. Ride the potential enthusiasm to help launch weeks worth of content.
For the rest, I’d consider what type of content you have. Disney has a lot of shows that will benefit from weekly releases. Star Wars or Marvel TV series are guaranteed to drive conversation on comics and sci-fi (fanboy) websites and podcasts. Weekly releases will amplify their reach from season one. For other dramas? Maybe not.
For HBO Max, they know all about launching prestige television, but HBO is about to quickly run out of days to launch all their content. In that sense, having more binge releases may make sense. Though again many of their fantasy or superhero series are destined to be stars in recap culture. For NBC, I still know so little about their platform that I won’t even speculate.
Apple may benefit the most from the binge release model. They are buying a ton of content and needs lots of buzz right from launch. Moreover, they aren’t trying to build a streaming platform per se, but a TV platform of which the content serves a subsidiary purpose. They should probably consider an approach closer to launching all series on binge, then rolling out the hits weekly for season twos.
Fine, What About Netflix?
If I were Netflix, I think they are missing something essential about how the social conversation drives a show to new heights. Right now, they have one potential mega-hit in Stranger Things. Even if they want to keep binge releases for all ten thousand other releases, they should consider carving exceptions for their biggest hits. A Stranger Things weekly release likely would have brought in new customer which they, um, need nowadays.
The key boils down to flexibility and being innovative. Innovation is not saying “Never, never, never.” It’s about understanding your customers, your business models and the attention landscape to maximize your return on assets.