If you’re as old as I am, you’ll remember a time when streaming services didn’t exist. You couldn’t have The Office running on a loop 24 hours a day to keep you company. If you wanted to watch an episode or two, you had to wait for it to be showing on TV at that exact moment, or look for the DVDs, which were so expensive you probably didn’t even bother. You also had to settle for whatever episode was on at the time. Skip ahead to Dinner Party for the best awkward comedy The Office has to offer. As for the new programs, they would be shown on television once a week between fall and spring, and practically nothing during the summer.
Then Netflix came along, and quickly stopped sending DVDs in the mail and asking you to return them. It became the first streaming giant, largely because Netflix bosses quickly realized that people like to sit back and watch the same TV shows, episode after episode. The dawn of binge-watching. From then on, he not only added old shows that he bought in one fell swoop, but also added his new shows and Netflix originals all at once.
Netflix gives us new seasons in one fell swoop and that’s why weekly viewing and seasons running from fall to spring sound like ancient history. Or at least it did for a few years. Enter Disney+ and a new speech online to add to the stack. There are plenty of streaming services, but Disney effectively took the number two spot behind Netflix as soon as it was announced, overtaking Amazon Prime. To be fair, their back catalog is so in-depth that it features content from the 1930s.
That means Disney can call some of the major streaming outlets. He watched Netflix dropping entire seasons at once, said “No thanks,” and proceeded to force us to wait seven days between episodes of The Mandalorian. That caused a stir on social media. Whether it was people who had simply forgotten that it always used to be that way, or people too young to remember those times, many people weren’t happy that they couldn’t see all of Mando’s exploits in one sitting. , or during a glorious weekend.
Rather than give in to the pressure of binge-watching culture, Disney has stood its ground and continues to release episodes of its new shows one week at a time. Apple does the same. Amazon Prime, in an attempt to please viewers on both sides of the fence, gives us three episodes of The Boys and then makes us wait a week between each other episode. I’m still undecided if that’s better, worse, or just different.
Back when Netflix was the only game in town, giving its subscribers a full season of a show to watch at their own leisure was fine. Now that there are other big players in town, with equally big, if not bigger, shows to brag about, issues with Netflix’s binge-watching system have come into the spotlight. Now more than ever, the three streaming services mentioned in this article have recently played some of their biggest cards. Stranger Things for Netflix, new Marvel and Star Wars shows on Disney+, and The Boys on Amazon Prime.
The new season of Stranger Things made a big splash when it landed last month. So much so that Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill climbed back up the charts. Within two weeks, which is honestly probably a bit generous, the buzz surrounding Stranger Things 4 had almost completely disappeared from the map. Obi-Wan, on the other hand, has been discussed on a weekly basis. Some have praised him as one of the best things Star Wars has done since Rogue One, and that he’s even better than the critically acclaimed Mandalorian. All of that in front of people bemoaning the fact that they couldn’t watch all six hours straight three weeks ago. Who would have thought?
It was even worse for The Witcher season 2 in late 2021. Yes, a lot of people saw it, which is great. But it seemed like even fewer people were talking about it, which is bad. People watching your shows is one thing. People saying positive things about them, not to mention coming back to their streaming service to watch them at the same time every week, well, that’s something else entirely, and it really seems like that should be the goal.
The strange thing is that Netflix is not only aware of this, but followed the weekly formula with Better Call Saul and it paid off. The first half of the Breaking Bad spin-off’s final season created a lot of buzz as its episodes dropped on Netflix once a week. No spoilers here, but that mid-season finale ensured that everyone will be back for the final race in July as well. It’s strange that Netflix didn’t decide to do the same with Stranger Things, especially when you consider the length of some of the new season’s episodes.
Whether impatient binge-watchers admit it or not, weekly episodic TV is better for you, too. As someone who has given in to the Netflix method in the past and gorged on a show I love in one sitting, the feeling you get right afterward, knowing it could be years before the next set of new episodes, is incredibly empty. . . The problem is that, thanks to social media, when a show goes down cold turkey, many feel the need to watch it right away so nothing is ruined, even if they prefer to stretch those episodes out over a glorious summer.
Disney may well be ending that culture. So many shows have released new seasons recently that I only got to watch a single episode of Stranger Things 4 at the time of this writing. Every time I try to catch up, there’s a new episode of Ms. Marvel, Obi-Wan, or The Boys to watch. Watching that episode of a new show as soon as it comes out takes me back to a time when everyone sat in front of their televisions at the same time and watched the same thing. Whenever a new episode of Lost or The Walking Dead aired, it was a date to watch, just like Disney shows are now. Stranger Things, on the other hand, is watched in its entirety and forgotten about a week later or is just sitting at the end of the line while I keep up with the shows that are reloaded every week.
While Better Call Saul bucked the trend somewhat, that’s probably not a sign that Netflix is going to drastically change its formula any time soon. The streaming giant has been bugging its subscribers left and right as of late, so it’s likely afraid of alienating more of them by suddenly deciding it won’t give them its biggest shows in one fell swoop as soon as be ready. On the other hand, Netflix seems to be in the mood to piss people off, either by raising its prices or canceling shows before giving them a real chance, so maybe it’s following in Disney’s footsteps.
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