Stop me if you’ve heard this before. You’re watching a Netflix show, you reach a particularly crucial part, and then when you try to play the next one, you’re greeted with a message. “Part 2 coming (a month from now).”
Netflix has been swearing by its “binge release” model since its inception, and keep claiming it has no plans to change it. And yet more and more, we have seen it try to split the difference with its most popular series, with shows like Stranger Things, You and now The Witcher cutting up their seasons either in half, or leaving a small handful of episodes for later. In The Witcher’s case, it’s airing five now and then Henry Cavill’s final three a month from now in late July.
To me, this represents the worst of both worlds, worse than a full binge drop and worse than weekly releases.
A month divide between “parts” of a season is annoying on two fronts, as you will likely end a series on a cliffhanger that is not even a seasonal cliffhanger, but just some cut point Netflix has decided on. And by the time a month has rolled around, you’ve probably watched five other series and forgot what was happening in the first place, unless you watch some sort of recap. A full binge model is better than this where you could watch the entire thing in one coherent block over the course of a weekend.
But simultaneously this is worse than a more standard weekly release model, which essentially all other streaming services employ for their big series. Netflix has always forgone this, but that has meant that outside of their largest, surprising, world-eclipsing series like Squid Game or Wednesday, chatter about a new season of something usually dissipates over the course of a weekend (though I am willing to be the second seasons of Squid Game and Wednesday will also be split).
There is no week-to-week check-in and social media discussion like we see every Sunday night for shows like House of the Dragon or Succession. No surprising hit to look forward to every week like Silo or From. But Netflix does want to extend the conversation a little bit, hence why they’re trying to stretch things over at least one month instead of one weekend with this kind of split.
For viewers, most seem to appreciate Netflix’s binge-based model. For the health of a show and the conversation around it, weekly is better. But splitting the difference like this does not make sense, and is worse than committing to either model. Netflix says it’s “experimenting” with this, but given that it’s happening with a growing number of its biggest shows, it feels like the process is being cemented, not toyed around with.
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