Releasing episodes weekly has become quite popular in the streaming world, but Netflix defended its strategy of releasing entire seasons of TV shows at once in a recent earnings call.
Recent rumors had suggested that Netflix could pivot away from its binge-watching model, but it appears that the streamer will continue with its habit of dropping all the episodes at once instead of adopting a weekly release schedule.
As part of the shareholder report for the third quarter (opens in a new tab) (and flagged by Variety (opens in a new tab)), Netflix laid out its rationale for being fully committed to binge-watching. “We believe our binge release model helps drive significant engagement, especially for newer titles. This enables viewers to lose themselves in stories they love,” the report said.
While Netflix’s competitors such as Prime Video, Disney Plus and HBO Max regularly release new episodes weekly for high-profile series, Netflix has rarely wavered from its binge-watching approach, and the streamer doesn’t seem to have 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 megahit globally without the momentum that came from people getting over it,” Netflix said in its shareholder letter. “We believe that 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 latest crime series, Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story: last week, the series became Netflix’s second most-watched English-language series in the first 28 days of its release. And the streamer claims that such 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 showing 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 a little flexible with its publishing model. Reality TV shows like Love is Blind and The Mole release the episode in smaller batches, and earlier this year Stranger Things season 4 was split into two parts. But still, this method of delivering content is more the exception than the rule.
These comments do not mean that Netflix will not change in the future. For years, the streamer publicly advised that it had no plans to offer an ad-supported subscription. But after a big drop in subscribers in the spring, the stance seemed to soften quickly, and now an ad-supported Netflix is launching 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 like it limits the discussion around a show tremendously, as well as destroying dramatic tension between episodes. Not to mention being instantly present with 10 hours of content at once can feel overwhelming and make committing to a show less appealing. However, I find it hard to disagree with Netflix’s comments here.
Squid Game, easily my favorite TV show last year, is a good example. Without all the episodes being released at once, it’s hard to see the series becoming the mega-hit 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 Google Trends data. It’s worth noting that Netflix is the biggest streaming service out there, so of course their shows have the biggest potential platform. But a limited series of Jeffery Dahmer being able to generate more discussion than the most expensive TV show ever made with the huge Lord of the Rings brand behind it is no small feat.
While I won’t be choosing to binge watch most of the TV shows I consume anytime soon, it’s clearly a strategy that works 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 employ a weekly release strategy.