Weekly vs All-at-Once Releases: What is Best for Netflix’s Future?

Photo of person in car looking at 'Who's Watching?' page on Netflix
Ed Farley

It has been reported that Netflix is considering pivoting its all-at-once release strategy for top titles to a once a week release strategy, akin to other streaming services and traditional TV.  Ed Farley considers why both strategies can be successful, and how they benefit streamers and audiences alike.

Shows must capitalise on how we, as consumers, talk about the content we are watching. Social media is now the place where many of us go to do this. Social media can transcend barriers meaning that the reach of a show can grow exponentially by having content available for everyone at the same time.

Peoples’ viewing habits and circumstances differ

However, a week-by-week model allows a fanbase to develop more easily, and they can engage with the show in the manner determined by managed releases. It is also easier to avoid spoilers if you engage in a show slowly, compared to all-at-once because peoples’ viewing habits and circumstances differ.

A show with 8 episodes aired weekly has 8 weeks to gain a social media following and extended conversation, compared to fewer weeks if they were to release all episodes in one go. HBO’s new Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon had seen a 3-5% increase in U.S. viewers since its record debut, after a strong internet presence kept its name at the forefront of viewers’ minds. We also must consider though, that House of the Dragon has an established franchise behind it, helping spark interest.

Netflix obviously has its own successful properties that get people talking. Squid Game experienced success in multiple markets, in part due to social media as its uniqueness inspired conversations for weeks. The same goes for Stranger Things, with its 1980’s nostalgia uniting both young and old, shown by the resurgence of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill that found its way in the top 5 of the music charts, more than thirty years after its release.

The commonalities in these shows are the high-octane stakes that entice viewers and keep Netflix original content exciting to watch. Because their uniqueness is what sells these shows, services with an all-at-once strategy must continuously break barriers to keep audiences captivated and discourse flowing for many weeks. Netflix does it well however, taking advantage of how the media works, keeping shows exciting and making the buzz around them feel like a whirlwind when the content truly speaks for itself.

Only just this year have we seen Netflix’s digital dominance succeeded by Disney+

With the number of streaming services available, moving onto something else is easier than ever. Though technically not the first streamer, Netflix will globally always be seen as a leader in the market. By revolutionising the landscape with great success, Netflix also painted the biggest target on its own back for its competitors. Only just this year have we seen Netflix’s digital dominance succeeded by Disney+, which managed to gain the edge on number of subscribers. It is impressive, but also overwhelming, that this success has come at such a fast rate, considering the Disney owned service only launched in 2019.

Binging is fun, but having time to enjoy the content […] is important

Being released all-at-once gives a show a ‘sell by date’ of sorts. The show must be perfect to a certain audience to keep people talking about it.  The traditional television weekly schedule, however, allows viewers to have a journey that aligns the content they watch with their enviroment. Binging is fun, but having time to enjoy the content and to let it have its moment – in both promotional and artistic ways – is important.

Arguably, it is also another step towards rightfully legitimising streaming television for awards contention, as judging panels typically ask shows to submit a certain episode of a television series to showcase the skills shows wish to be nominated for.

Regardless of what you might think is best, I believe streaming platforms are realising that the space they occupy isn’t as new or shiny as it once was. What will it take for that feeling to be replicated in other ways within the streaming space? Finding ways to showcase content is just as important as the content itself, as the accessibility of streaming services affects the way we interact with what we are served. It’s no wonder that Netflix is wondering this too.

Ed Farley

Featured image courtesy of Malte Helmhold via Unsplash.com. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In article trailer courtesy of HBO Max via youtube.com. No changes were made to this video.

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