Since Netflix began producing original content, it has been dropping all the episodes of a show for viewers to watch at their leisure. That means most people usually sat and watched all the episodes at once over the course of a day or few days.
Recently, audiences have wondered if the binge model is really effective. For one thing, when all the episodes drop, it's a hit for a weekend. But there's no staying power. Shows disappear from social media and burn out quickly.
But this format isn't leaving any time soon.
Peter Friedlander, a Netflix exec for scripted original shows in the U.S. and Canada, said recently at a Hollywood Radio Television Society event, “We fundamentally believe that we want to give our members the choice in how they view. And so giving them that option on these scripted series to watch as much as they want to watch when they watch it, is still fundamental to what we want to provide. And so when you see something like a batched season with Stranger Things, this is our attempt at making sure we can get shows out quicker to the members."
This is an interesting move. Competitors have been doing the traditional one-episode weekly model and have seen shows stay in the cultural landscape longer. You can talk about them for seven or 10 weeks straight at times. And while Netflix has broken seasons into parts, it still drops batches of episodes and won't change there.
Friedlander's response to critics is, "We have had some experimentation in that space. But it’s also, you’re giving multiple-episodic-viewing experiences, it isn’t a standalone. So it really does, what we think, honors our relationship with our members and what their expectations are. There have been other types of launch cadences, but that’s connected to an unscripted approach or a competition approach.”
As a filmmakers and writer, I think I would approach writing an episode differently if I thought people would be watching multiple in a row. I would add more cliffhangers to get people clicking for the next episode, and I would probably resist too many stand-alone episodes that fall out of the flow.
It's clear that a show like Stranger Things wrote its fourth season around the idea that the last two episodes would be dropped separately and be movie-length. It skewed the earlier stories to tie things up so they could have ample time to build to a conclusion.
Do you have an approach you prefer? Let us know in the comments.