Recently we asked the question as to how Netflix can keep its streaming crown and two of our experts and industry observers suggested Netflix should take advantage of releasing episodes weekly. Of course, Netflix does release some of its content weekly but should everything be switched to weekly, just a select few titles or none at all? Let’s explore.
The binge vs weekly release debate has been raging on over the past few years and with more and more competitors coming into the market we thought we’d revisit the conversation
In the aforementioned article, it was the Entertainment Strategy Guy (a former streaming executive) who suggested that Netflix should experiment with weekly releases saying:
“… releasing some select series weekly in season two. The series need to be big splashy and drive a conversation. (Think The Witcher, You, Stranger Things, Squid Game or Bridgerton.) This would help keep customers on the service.”
According to The Information, Netflix has no plans to ditch its binge model. They note that “Netflix’s data team has found that there is no evidence that the weekly model affects churn” and for the moment that remains true.
Disney+ notably releases most of its lineup on a weekly basis although does still drop smaller titles all at once.
HBO continues to release weekly too albeit some of the HBO Max releases do drop all at once. Speaking to Casey Bloys at HBO, Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw raised the question of weekly episodes vs all at once. Here’s what he had to say:
“We have been though a lot of thinking, and every single time I am reminded that weekly drops is the way to do it. You leave a lot on the table when you release all the episodes at once. It’s been the way we’ve done it, and I think that’s best for us.”
So what are the pros and cons of releasing weekly, particularly as it pertains to Netflix? Also, has Netflix had any experience with weekly releases? Let’s take a look.
How Netflix Experiments With Its Releases
There are a number of cases where Netflix either does release weekly or forgo its binge model.
The most obvious example is international exclusive deals such as Riverdale, Better Call Saul or any number of the K-dramas Netflix carries. In these cases, Netflix either has to release weekly or wait until the series wraps to air.
Netflix has actually released a number of its Originals weekly in the past. When Netflix used to dabble in the talk show format, those episodes would be released weekly. More recently, we’ve seen the Kanye West docu-series released over a three-week period too.
Netflix also does “episode batches” where it releases several episodes a week over a fixed period of time. This approach applies most to reality series such as Love is Blind.
A more recent trend seems to be giving “supersized” seasons to shows (mostly final seasons) and then splitting them up into volumes. Some of the shows Netflix has released in this way include Lucifer, Money Heist, Ozark, Stranger Things season 4, and Manifest. Usually, we see these new volumes release between 3-6 months of each other.
Pros and Cons of Weekly Releases for Netflix
Pros: Keeping a sustained viewership and keeping it in the conversation
The biggest pro for any show on Netflix getting the weekly release is that it can lead to bigger viewership and sustained viewership over a longer period of time.
The Boys is a really good example of Prime Video adopting a weekly release strategy for a second season and seeing its audience grow and sustained over multiple weeks thanks to its move to weekly episodes.
In a report by the ESG, he stated that weekly viewership can be less impressive when looking at the likes of Nielsen charts from week to week but it’s a mirage.
Online conversation surrounding a show is also often cited as one of the key reasons to commit to weekly episodes.
A viral Tweet in February 2022 from @JakeyimDb with over 250k likes lays this out citing that Succession, Euphoria, and Peacemaker have all benefited from weekly conversation citing that conversation on Ozark dropped off almost instantaneously.
HBO Max is constantly proving that weekly release is better than the binge model. All anyone has talked about are Succession, Euphoria, and Peacemaker while a whole season of Ozark dropped on Netflix and it just came and went.
— Jacob (@JakeyimDb) February 17, 2022
The question ultimately becomes whether or not conversation around the show actually translates into viewership and subscribers or not. Ozark seemingly pulled in big numbers for Netflix regardless.
Pros: Weekly episodes could help Netflix reduce churn
As the “streaming wars” heat up, it’ll ultimately become a battle for which streamers can hold your subscription for every month of the year. Churn is rate at which customers stop doing business with an entity so in this instance, how many people get rid of their Netflix subscriptions.
If there are only 2 shows you subscribe to Netflix for, keeping you locked in for a three-month period when new episodes are released for a new season will stop you churning.
Netflix has historically had low churn (and is still the lowest as of Q3 2021) but that’s not to say that will last forever. If Netflix is planning on spending less on new programming, switching to weekly could help retain its impressive reported churn rate.
Con: Netflix’s packed lineup couldn’t support weekly
Netflix has a huge lineup compared to nearly every other streamer currently. Every week they release up to a dozen new Netflix Originals that come from around the world. Compared to other streamers, that’s an extraordinary lineup.
If it switched to weekly for all shows that’d create an immense weekly lineup and perhaps one that would be difficult to follow for users.
Not to mention it’d be putting the PR and marketing teams in overdrive having to juggle a very heavy lineup.
Con: Netflix UI just isn’t set up for weekly episodes
Netflix UI is often praised as being one of the best but it is engineered to be a recommendation machine. It’s good at the new releases rising to the top but given the number of releases (see above) there’s always something new rising to the top. As a result, weekly episodes rising to the top nicely would likely become frustrating.
There have been improvements made in this space over the years. For example, if you set reminders for shows that release weekly, you can get WhatsApp notifications, app push notifications, and the Netflix bell icon will keep you informed.
By and large, though Netflix diving into weekly episodes in a larger fashion will likely require a rework to the continue watching row or a new row entirely to keep track as to when new episodes of the shows you’re watching.
Con: Having the choice is a good thing
For those who don’t engage in online conversation, watching in a binge format ultimately gives you the freedom of choice. There’s actually nothing stopping you from watching Ozark on a weekly basis right here right now.
Part of the lure of Netflix in the early days is that it did disrupt the linear nature of television and allowed you to watch what you want to watch when you wanted to watch it.
Should Netflix move to Weekly Releases?
Our view on this is the answer should be no, at least for the most part. There are merits for Netflix adopting weekly release schedules for event viewing whether that be the return of Netflix’s biggest IPs such as Stranger Things but for the most part, Netflix popularized binging and should therefore stay the course.
With that said, seeing extended seasons of the show’s final seasons seems to be a growing trend for Netflix’s biggest shows that we expect to become the norm going forward. There’s also a case to be made for a hybrid model but ultimately, it’ll all come down to the numbers and whether Netflix is forced to adopt such a release schedule.
What do you think? Should Netflix be switching to a weekly release schedule? Let us know in the comments down below.