Releasing episodes weekly has become quite popular in the world of streaming but Netflix has defended its strategy of releasing entire seasons of TV shows all at once in a recent earnings call.
Recent rumors had suggested that Netflix could pivot from its binge-watching model, but it appears for now the streamer will persist with its habit of dropping all episodes simultaneously rather than adopting a weekly release schedule.
As part of its Q3 shareholder report (opens in new tab) (and flagged by Variety (opens in new tab)), Netflix laid out its reasoning for being fully committed to binge-watching. “We think our bingeable release model helps drive substantial engagement, especially for newer titles. This enables viewers to lose themselves in stories they love,” the report reads.
While Netflix’s competitors such as Prime Video, Disney Plus and HBO Max regularly release new episodes weekly for high-profile shows, Netflix has rarely swayed from its binge-watching approach, and it doesn’t appear the streamer has any plans to deviate from its current release strategy in the near future.
“It’s hard to imagine, for example, how a Korean title like Squid Game would have become a mega hit globally without the momentum that came from people being able to binge it,” said Netflix in its shareholder letter. “We believe the ability for our members to immerse themselves in a story from start to finish increases their enjoyment but also their likelihood to tell their friends, which then means more people watch, join and stay with Netflix.”
To illustrate its point Netflix uses the example of its recent true crime series, Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story: last week the show became Netflix’s second most-watched English language series in its first 28-days of release. And the streamer argues that such a high engagement was driven by the decision to release all 10 episodes at once.
In its briefing to shareholders, Netflix included a chart from Google Trends which showcases significantly more interest in Dahmer compared to two high-profile shows on rival platforms released weekly, The Rings of Power on Prime Video and House of the Dragon on HBO Max.
This isn’t to say that Netflix isn’t afraid to be somewhat flexible with its release model. Reality TV shows such as Love is Blind and The Mole release episode in smaller batches, and earlier this year Stranger Things season 4 was split into two parts. But even so, this method of delivering content is more of an exception than the rule.
These comments don’t mean that Netflix won’t have a change of heart in the future. For years, the streamer publicly briefed it had no plans to offer an ad-supported subscription. But after a major subscriber drop in the spring, that stance appeared to quickly soften and now a Netflix with ads plan is set to launch next month.
Binge-watching is here to stay, and Netflix may have a point
I’ve been vocal in the past about my dislike of binge-watching. I feel it massively curtails discussion around a show, as well as ruining dramatic tension between episodes. Not to mention being instantly present with 10 hours of content in one go can feel overwhelming and make committing to a show less appealing. However, I’m finding it hard to disagree with Netflix’s comments here.
Squid Game, easily my favorite TV show of last year, is a great example. Without all episodes being released at once it is hard to see that series become the megahit it did. Being able to recommend the show to skeptical friends with the promise “just try the first three episodes and you’ll be hooked” made for a compelling pitch.
It’s also hard to argue with Netflix’s supplied Google Trends data. It’s worth noting that Netflix is the biggest streaming service out there, so naturally, its shows have the biggest potential platform. But a limited series about Jeffery Dahmer being able to generate more discussion than the most expensive TV show ever made with the mammoth Lord of the Rings branding behind it is no mean feat.
While I won’t be choosing to binge-watch the majority of TV shows I consume anytime soon, it’s clearly a strategy that is working for Netflix. And the streamer seems to be doubling down on this release model based on these quotes. So, when the likes of Stranger Things season 5 and The Witcher season 3 drop next year don’t expect to see Netflix employing a weekly release strategy.