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Could the Binge Model Be in Danger with the Success of Weekly Releases?

Aubrey Chorpenning

Could the binge release model be on its way out? Before streaming took off, there was only one way to watch new shows on TV – one episode per week. You might remember sitting down on the couch every Tuesday at 9 p.m. to watch the newest episode of your favorite show.

Today, streaming companies have a couple of options when releasing new series on their platforms. Netflix typically releases a whole season at a time, allowing viewers to binge it all at once if they choose. On the other hand, Disney+ has opted to release one episode per week for many of its hit series.

It’s been heavily debated whether the binge model or weekly drops is better for both audiences and streaming services. Now, there is new data to offer more insight. Parrot Analytics found that of 2021’s 50 most popular titles, 62 percent were released weekly. In recent years, weekly releases accounted for 30 percent in 2020 and 32 percent in 2019.

While some people might have time to binge a new series, not everyone does, so this can be a daunting task. New shows aren’t the only ones that subscribers are binging, though. Folks can easily binge longtime hit comfort shows, like “Friends,” “The Office,” and “Seinfeld.”

Some streaming services have avoided the binge model and drop new episodes on a weekly release schedule. Disney+ saw success with a weekly release schedule for “The Mandalorian.” Now, the service is doing the same with “The Book of Boba Fett”.

Though Disney+ might release episodes one at a time, that doesn’t mean viewers aren’t binge-watching. Some might choose not to watch the first episode until all of them are available to stream. However, they then run the risk of stumbling upon online conversations and spoiling a series.

For streaming services like Disney+, a weekly release schedule means that people are renewing their subscriptions for several months rather than paying for a month of the service, binging a series, and canceling before they’re charged again. This allows viewers to keep up with new episodes. Market Watch notes that this is also beneficial for smaller, less-known streaming companies that might not be able to hold subscribers otherwise.

However, the weekly release schedule isn’t the only strategy that Disney+ uses. All eight hours of Peter Jackson’s “The Beatles: Get Back” were released over three days.

The release schedule each service chooses to use varies. HBO Max, for example, looks at each series to determine how to release them. In a statement to The Ringer, Meredith Gertler, executive vice president of content strategy and planning at HBO and HBO Max, said, “We don’t employ a one-size-fits all approach. We have the flexibility to develop a unique strategy per series to best meet the customers where they are. Some of our series lend themselves to bingeing, while others are better suited to consume over time.”

In the case of the excellent new HBO Max series “Station Eleven,” episodes are dropped in bundles. Each week, 2-3 episodes become available, leading up to the standalone finale on January 13. You might call these “mini-binges.”

Overall, both consumers and streaming companies can benefit from a weekly drop model. Viewers can watch an episode and talk about it online while waiting for the next one to drop. Plus, it’s easier for many people to find time in their week to stream a single 30 or 60-minute episode. A single episode has the power to leave viewers with a greater impact than several episodes that might run together.

Streaming services see consistent subscriptions when episodes are released over several months, and the series have the chance to stay relevant for a longer amount of time because viewers are waiting for new episodes to release each week.

Though the weekly drop model appears to be a huge success, especially after 2021, the binge model likely won’t completely disappear yet. As Gertler mentioned, weekly releases don’t work for all series, just like the binge model isn’t always effective. As the streaming space continues to evolve, release schedules will need to change, too.

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