A Decade of Binge
One decade ago, Netflix (NFLX) released the first season of House of Cards. It was not the streamer’s first original series, but it was the first release designed to be binged. For the first time, every episode of the season was made available on the platform simultaneously.
This contrasted the standard for more than half a century of television preceding Netflix’s groundbreaking approach: the weekly release strategy. In the years since, the streaming world remains divided over the best approach for releasing content.
Tale of Two Release Strategies
Last year, Netflix released another original series in a single, binge-able batch: Wednesday. It went on to become the second most-watched Netflix show of all time, but only the second most-watched show across all streaming platforms last year. The first was HBO Max’s (WBD) House of the Dragon, which was released episode by episode.
These examples show both release strategies remain viable. But is one better than the other? This question is top of mind as the streaming landscape becomes increasingly competitive and a crowded field of streamers aim to optimize viewer retention and engagement.
When House of Cards was released in the first quarter of 2013, Netflix still boasted an 89% market share. But even then it was already beginning to lose ground to Hulu and Amazon Prime (AMZN).
With so many options, viewers can now hop between platforms after finishing a series, canceling subscriptions after only a month of binging the shows they wanted to see. In response, streaming services seek ways to both keep current subscribers engaged and attract new ones.
Both binge-release and weekly-release models have merits. Viewers are more likely to finish a season released all at once. But these series typically find less time in the zeitgeist than their weekly counterparts. Serial releases require patience of a population with a diminishing attention span. But they can create anticipation and longer-lasting buzz around a series — and keep viewers subscribed for more than a month.
A decade in, this debate over release strategies continues to evolve and shape the future of content. So who will win? Since it boils down to a battle to attract viewers, the answer is simply whichever one keeps you tuning in.
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