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September 27 2022

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Why Netflix Should Ditch the Binge Model

The idea of Netflix moving away from its binge-release model, as industry reports suggest it might, is surprising regardless of one’s opinion of the model. It would be like if White Castle pivoted to selling regular-sized hamburgers; whether you like White Castle or not, those dinky little sliders have become such an integral part of the brand’s identity that it would be jarring if they went away. Netflix has defined itself as a disruptor ever since it ushered Blockbuster off this mortal coil, and the binge model was one of the most impactful media disruptions of the past decade: it kicked off the current streaming boom, sent cable TV into a tailspin, and introduced pop culture behemoths like The Crown and Stranger Things.

It seemed like a boon for everyone involved. For audiences, primed by cable marathons and ever-shrinking attention spans, the binge model satisfied the lizard-brain desire to consume all of something in one sitting. Instead of digesting a series over the course of two or three months, audiences could simply unhinge their jaws and - gulp! - send the latest season of Orange is the New Black down the hatch in one weekend. For creators, the binge model, in tandem with Netflix’s deep pockets, offered the opportunity to tell complex, ambitious stories without the need for each episode to stand on its own. And for the higher-ups at Netflix, the binge model meant that it could release an entire season of a buzzy show and make it truly inescapable: for a week or even a month, the right show could result in a flood of memes, reaction videos, think pieces, and references on Saturday Night Live. And if they had enough of those hits, well, they could take over the world.

And so they did.

The Binge Model Is What Made Netflix Successful

House of Cards became the first streaming show to be nominated for Outstanding Drama at the Emmys, and by the end of the decade, streamers were so commonly nominated that it wasn’t worth commenting on anymore. Netflix earned competitors in Hulu, Prime Video, and Apple TV+. Together, they produced a deluge of content, from breezy reality shows to true-crime documentaries to high-concept dramas, many of which were released through the binge model. Eventually, it became more common for a literary adaptation or a crazy true story to take the form of a limited series rather than a film; this, combined with the dominance of franchise-driven IP at the cineplex, resulted in the decline of the mid-budget movie. By the time the pandemic arrived, shutting down movie theaters and encouraging audiences to forget their worries with Tiger King, it seemed like a done deal: streaming reigned supreme, and the binge model powered its ascent.

But from our current position, where the last two episodes of Stranger Things combine for over four hours and every trifling scammer gets their own glossy miniseries, it’s hard not to see how detrimental the binge model has been: to viewers, to creators, to the culture at large, and even to Netflix itself. It served them well for a while, and it might serve them well for a little while longer, but the tide has already started to turn against it. If Netflix isn’t careful, it might learn how Blockbuster felt all those years ago.

The Take

Why the Binge Model Doesn't Work Anymore For Audiences

Firstly, to encourage binge-watching is to instill terrible habits in viewers. Netflix may occasionally ask its viewers if they’re still watching, but everything else about the service, from its endless panel of thumbnails to its “next episode” autoplay function, is designed to get the audience lost. Just as casinos are built without windows so gamblers won’t notice the passage of time, Netflix seeks to lull its viewers into a perpetual state of “one more episode,” keeping them going until they finish the season and realize they just watched six hours of television.

It’s an unhealthy way to engage with the medium, in more ways than one. Setting aside the physical effects of so much sedentary binge-watching, consuming anything in excess has a numbing effect. A binge-eater doesn’t savor every bite, and a binge-drinker doesn’t care how their liquor tastes; the point is not to enjoy but to consume. More often than not, those kinds of binges are followed by a purge, because there’s only so much that the body can digest. The same is true for binge-watching. The brain can only take in so much information at a time; since it can’t purge itself, it simply becomes less effective at absorbing and retaining new input. Even if you’re watching something with rapt attention, fatigue will set in, and crucial detail and nuance may be missed.

The Binge Model Can Ruin the Pacing of a Season of Television

It’s true that viewers can take breaks and pace themselves to avoid this sort of burnout, but another major consequence of binging has become unavoidable. The best shows of the Golden Age of Television, the ones that paved the way for the streaming revolution, were great in part because their creators had honed their craft through working in network television. Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul fame was a writer and producer for The X-Files; Deadwood creator David Milch cut his teeth on cop shows like Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue; David Chase worked on dramedies like Northern Exposure and detective programs like The Rockford Files before he created The Sopranos. Not all of these experiences went smoothly - Chase in particular has made no secret that he hated Northern Exposure - but working within the well-oiled machinery of network TV, dealing with limitations like commercial breaks and censorship, meant they all had a firm grasp of the fundamentals. They made TV shows that felt like TV shows, even when they were on HBO.

This is something that recent streaming shows, even the best ones, lack. Outside the parameters of network television, a show’s pacing can often feel slack and unfocused, as though it’s not sure if it wants to be a TV show or a very long movie. There’s a sense of discipline to a show like Breaking Bad that’s hard to get when the creators don’t have to deal with much in the way of limitations. Paradoxically, Netflix shows are often so obsessed with driving the plot forward - to hold the audience’s attention and to fit as much as they can into ten episodes - that they forget to leave room to breathe and explore. The Sopranos was able to flesh out its setting and characters so well because it was allowed to take detours like “Pine Barrens,” and because it had the space to devote whole episodes to certain characters instead of needing to keep track of twelve different plot lines in every episode. Compare that to a show like Ozark, where characters can barely be heard over the sound of the metaphorical ticking clock. Instead of trusting that the viewer will be there next week, these shows have to actively court their attention to the detriment of everything else.

The Netflix Binge Model Devalues the Art of Storytelling

But the real problem with the binge model is bigger than iffy pacing, or turning people into slightly bigger couch potatoes than they already were. The problem can be summed up with one drab, empty, ugly word: content. Netflix has been responsible for some great television, to say nothing of the great films they’ve bankrolled, but that one word gives the game away. It takes the wonder and artistry out of the whole enterprise and turns it into product - and while all commercial media is a product of some kind, the binge model just makes it more obvious. Netflix ladles whole seasons of television onto our plates like a disinterested lunch lady, not seeming to know or care what audiences think of it - it usually gets canceled after two seasons, anyway. It devalues art, turning it into something to put on in the background while folding laundry.

Perhaps this is why Netflix has started to see the limits of the binge model. Time and again, we see the Netflix hype cycle play out: a show is released, it’s everywhere for a week or two, and then it fades into the rearview without leaving much of an impression. Netflix managed to get one major, lasting success last year with Squid Game, but for the most part, these binge-released shows have started to feel disposable. How many people still give much thought to Inventing Anna nowadays? Meanwhile, think of all the other zeitgeist-defining shows of the past year: Succession, Euphoria, Severance, Ted Lasso, The White Lotus, Yellowjackets. Those were released on a weekly basis, sometimes with a two-episode premiere, utilizing the hybrid release movel - but these are the shows that have lasting impact, that have passionate fans, that feel like something more than content. It’s something for Netflix to consider before they get left in the dust.

Source: Collider

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Amazon Looking to Hire AVOD, FAST Execs; Is Ad-Supported Prime Video on the Way?

If you’ve got knowledge and experience with free ad-supported streaming (FAST) services, you may want to send your résumé to Amazon. The tech and e-commerce giant is looking to add to its ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) team, including a head of first-party and exclusive FAST channels.

According to reporting from Television Business International, that executive will lead creative strategy, development, licensing, and programming for Amazon Studios’ first-party and exclusive channels business and will be in charge of helping to define and execute the content strategy for TV and movie content on these channels.

Amazon is also looking for a lead programming exec for the same team, who will oversee the creative strategy, including category and title selection, content oversight, and deal-making for original and licensed series and movies on its global first-party and exclusive FAST channels.

The corporate expansions for Amazon come at a time when it has been expanding content on its FAST service Freevee. The channel has added a ton of titles in the last few months, from financial guru Suze Orman to the chills and thrills of Midnight Pulp. Freevee — formerly IMDB TV has also continued its European rollout this year, expanding into the UK and Germany.

The additions to its executive ranks may simply signal that Amazon is looking to continue its expansion of Freevee. After all, the channel brings eyes (and ad dollars) to Amazon, which may lead viewers to shop while streaming shows like “Bosch” for free. But, the bolstering of its AVOD tier may have bigger implications for Amazon.

Source: Media Play News

Understand the streaming landscape in this weekly data snapshot series provided by Parrot Analytics. This week we are looking at the share of demand for movies across different streaming platforms in the US.


Key Findings Include

- In terms of the share of demand for all movies on SVODs in the US, HBO Max leads the competition with a 19.5% share of demand for on-platform movies.

- Hulu, which often has the largest share of demand when it comes to series on its platform, is only in 5th place in terms of its share of demand for movies with a 7.5% share.

- Total demand for the movie catalog on Starz makes it stand out in this regard. The demand for movies available to stream on Starz (6.2%) was greater than both Paramount+ and Peacock.




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