Binge-watching has certainly boomed over recent months, years even, but with new series such as Disney’s Wandavision debuting weekly, is this coming to an end?
For many, getting hooked on a new show on Netflix or elsewhere, has provided essential escapism from the real-world, especially during lockdowns. I am undoubtedly part of this binge-watching trend, finding myself guilty of watching all 8 episodes of Bridgerton in 2 days flat. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed it (how is it possible not to?), I question whether I would have appreciated it more if Netflix had released each episode week-by-week.
The introduction of platforms like Netflix in the last few years has seemed to inherently shift they way we watch shows, giving us instant access to multiple shows as supposed to regular television which makes us wait. Releasing shows like this certainly secures a fan-base much faster than weekly episodes; an audience can form connections to the characters and delve into the story world quickly.
Studies have shown some truth behind what’s known as ‘post binge-watch depression’
Netflix has clearly mastered this tactic given that it has hooked audiences with speedy releases like You and Ratched while keeping us engaged through weekly releases of fan favourites such as that of Riverdale. Looking at this approach, might we expect the now record-breaking Bridgerton to release its second season on a weekly schedule? We will have to wait and see.
Netflix’s competitor Disney+ appears to take a similar approach, but with a twist. Given the pre-existing fanbase for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Disney doesn’t need to capture a brand-new audience for shows such as Wandavision as it already has a guaranteed audience. Due to this, there is no need for the binge-approach release schedule, as the desire to capture subscribers to the platform is far greater than whether the show will be a success or not. As a fan myself, I can certainly say that the initial 2-episode release of Wandavision was more than enough to capture my attention; I am hooked.
Perhaps the shift to weekly releases is acting as a way to revive the tried-and-tested cliff hanger ending
Whilst waiting for the next episode is frustrating, it has almost resurrected the use of cliff-hanger endings. A classic in any film or TV show, the cliff-hanger ending certainly grips the audience and ‘leaves us wanting more’ (such a cliché, I know), but with the binge-watching technique, they have become rather pointless as we can immediately watch the next episode without waiting. Perhaps the shift to weekly releases is acting as a way to revive the tried-and-tested cliff hanger ending and fundamentally bring more excitement to TV shows?
Alongside the potential use of weekly releases to improve narrative techniques and boost excitement, it is also possible that platforms are using these schedules to benefit their viewers’ mental health. Several questions have been raised regarding binge-watching and the impact it can have on its viewers. No matter how invested we get while watching a series, we must face the fact that it will come to an end eventually. Whether simply waiting for the next season, or finishing the final ever episode, we are left with this feeling of emptiness. What to watch next? The connection we form to TV shows, and the time we dedicate to watching them, has become our most relied-on form of escapism. Especially during the pandemic, who can blame us for submerging ourselves into any and all shows we can, to detach from reality. However, believe it or not, studies have shown some truth behind what’s known as ‘post binge-watch depression’. We seem to start a show, and don’t come up for air again until we’ve finished it.
I don’t believe we are seeing a complete ‘end’ to binge-watching, but perhaps a more blended approach
Due to this, the move to weekly releases could highly benefit our mental health, limiting how wrapped up in a show we get. By giving us only one episode a week, we are able to vary the shows we watch rather than only relying on one at a time, make time to do other things (like go outside!), and look forward to the day the latest episode debuts.
This being said, it is important to note that Netflix is highly unlikely to completely abolish its usual release schedule. The success of shows such as Bridgerton highlights that this method of releasing, and subsequently binge-watching, is still highly favourable amongst viewers, so it is probably not just going to disappear completely. However, the gradual inclusion of weekly releases alongside this usual technique certainly bodes well for us viewers.
I’ll leave you on this note – no, I don’t believe we are seeing a complete ‘end’ to binge-watching, but perhaps a more blended approach. The increase of weekly episodes on Netflix and other platforms is bringing back a more sustainable method of viewing, which is highly necessary, otherwise we’ll end up watching shows quicker than they can be produced.
In article trailer courtesy of Marvel Entertainment via YouTube.
In article images courtesy of netflixuk via Instagram. No changes made to these images.
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