Ban the Binge! Netflix Makes the Right Move With Weekly Episodes
My family cut the cord 6 years ago, and we've almost never regretted it. I say "almost" because there have been a few occasions when the stream cut out in the middle of a football game or one of our services went down. But between Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu Live, we don't feel like we're missing anything.
Like most cord cutters, we love the freedom to watch what we want, when we want, and we do plenty of binge-watching. But every once in a while, we enjoy appointment viewing—the whole family watches This is Us, and this summer my wife and I would shoo the kids out of the living room on Sunday nights so we could watch the new episode of Big Little Lies. But most of the time we pick a series on Prime Video or Netflix and binge watch—for me, it's been Goliath, while my wife and daughter have been catching up on Jane the Virgin and Gray's Anatomy. Our 10-year-old son, on the other hand, does his own binge watching on YouTube. We all watched season three of Stranger Things together over the course of two nights in July.
To be honest, though, when I binge watch a series, the details run together in my memory, and the finale doesn't have quite the same impact as if I'd had to wait a week for it. So I was happy to hear that Netflix is now going to be releasing episodes for some series, including The Great British Baking Show and the hip-hop talent competition Rhythm & Flow, one per week. One of the casualties of the binge-watching era has been a drop-off in "water cooler TV," the kinds of shows that people would talk about the morning after (or, these days, in real-time on Twitter). Game of Thrones and a small handful of others aside, there aren't many shows that bring people together at the same time in a communal experience that gets shared in the home and online. Competition shows are perfect for that, and I'm hoping we'll see Netflix branch out into the once-a-week episode format for shows like Stranger Things in the future. I still remember gathering at a friend's house for the M*A*S*H finale in 1983, and you could practically hear the hollering in my neighborhood when Steve Perry sang that last "don't stop" to bring The Sopranos to a close.
Binge-watching isn't going anywhere—it's at the core of Netflix's business model—but I'm looking forward to more moments like that.
Today, binge-watching is many people's favored mode of viewing. That's entirely our industry's doing (some might say fault), and it stands as a compelling counterpoint to the notion that we've devolved to the point where we're incapable of paying sustained attention to stories and storytellers.
Is binge-watching becoming a thing of the past? Not necessarily, but research from Reach3 Insights suggests that Netflix would be wise to follow Disney+ and Apple TV+ and embrace weekly episodes or even a hybrid approach.
Why did Netflix's stock fall in Q2? Because the OTT leader's price increase lead to service cancellations. That's a warning to all SVODs: If it can happen to Netflix, it can happen to any service.