Netflix is radically altering the binge-watch model that had defined the streaming service for nearly a decade. Starting in October, Netflix will no longer release episodes of certain series all at once. Instead, it will release chunks of episodes on a weekly basis. On Tuesday, Hypebeast reported that Netflix is dialing back binge drops for original programming starting with the The Great British Baking Show and Rhythm & Flow. Will this new release schedule apply to future seasons of big shows like Stranger Things?
A few years ago, the idea of deleting your Netflix account would sound insane, but now that Disney+ and Hulu are threatening to make a better deal for families, the case can be made that Netflix is in danger of becoming irrelevant. To that end, it’s possible that Netflix is releasing certain shows on a weekly basis because it wants to create more value.
Here’s what we mean. If an entire season doesn’t become available all at once, the cultural value for that series obviously goes up. The best example of this is the fact that you can’t imagine a world in which HBO dropped an entire season of Game of Thrones on the same day, but you can easily imagine a future in which Netflix doles out Stranger Things one episode at a time. The hype around a series you can binge the weekend it comes out may have been a novelty a few years ago, but people with limited amounts of time — specifically parents — might benefit from a series that doesn’t spoil its own ending by having too much content out right away.
To put it another way, if you want to watch the new Dark Crystal, you’ll have to avoid the internet for the several weeks it will take you to finish it because those who have the luxury of bingeing it can easily spoil it for the rest of us. For busy people waiting to catch up on a series while their kid is sleeping, bingeing might be unrealistic and overwhelming.
However, just because Netflix is releasing The Great British Baking Show and Rhythm & Flow in weekly blocks, doesn’t mean Netflix is abolishing the binge model entirely. After all, both of these series are reality-based competition shows, so there’s an obvious reason to stretch out the hype. Plus, globally, Netflix already has a history of releasing episodes of popular streaming-only TV shows one at a time. Though Star Trek: Discovery streams on CBS All-Access in the US, in the UK and elsewhere, the show is on Netflix, which means global fans of that series already know what it feels like to Netflix and chill a week at a time.
But while this new model is a big change, many financial pundits believe that it’s too early to say that Netflix is in any serious trouble. Though Disney+ and Apple TV present huge competition for Netflix, some finance experts say that statistics don’t support a mass Netflix exodus just yet. True, Netflix stock has fluctuated a bit recently, but they’re not out of the game yet, and they’re hoping release new shows in a drip instead of a flood could better prepare them for the streaming wars to come.