New streaming goes back to old viewing habits
The Future. Netflix popularized the all-at-once season drop (so viewers could binge), but now many streamers are taking a different route, releasing shows in a more hybrid weekly model. The strategy has helped newer streamers build buzz and boost subscriber counts over time. Part of the reason may be because, with the sheer amount of content out there, audiences unconsciously want less… so they can keep up.
Ditch the binge
Maybe instant gratification isn’t the best long-term business model. HBO Max, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, and AMC+ have all opted to release episodes once a week or debut with only two or three episodes instead of the all-at-once Netflix model.
- HBO Max noted that series such as Hacks, The Sex Lives of College Girls, and Euphoria have seen viewership skyrocket — sometimes 70% — week-after-week as buzz grows.
- HBO also uses the weekly model to build hype for coming series or movies, using what WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar calls “baton handoffs.”
- Similarly, when AMC’s Sundance Now service debuted season 2 of A Discovery of Witches on a weekly basis (it dropped all at once in season 1), sign-ups doubled.
- AMC found that if a viewer watches more than one show at a time, they’ll stick around more than eight weeks because it promotes a “long-term relationship.”
Additionally, creatives also prefer the week-to-week model — it helps lengthen the lifecycle of their show, as opposed to shows burning bright upon debut and then fizzling out when the next thing hits the wires.
Netflix is not entirely opposed to shaking up its all-or-nothing binge model. Last year, it experimented with releasing episodes of The Circle and Ozark in batches. But, Netflix co-CEO reportedly said that dropping the binge model outright would anger customers — you can’t give audiences a whole cake for a decade and then expect them to be happy with just a slice.
Another reason why most streamers are hesitant (we’ll exclude Apple and Amazon) is that they don’t have the cash to drop a whole series week after week. Netflix spent roughly $17.5 billion in original content last year while HBO Max spent $4.4 billion; Disney+ will spend around $9 billion by 2024. As HBO Max Chief Content Officer Casey Bloys explained, “to expect a new series a week is a very expensive habit to fill.”