Television networks are doing the ¯\(ツ)/¯ emoticon in real life because they don’t know what to do about your love for binge-watching an entire season of television in one glorious sitting.
The Hollywood Reporter explores the head-scratching taking place in boardrooms around Hollywood as network executives try to figure out if releasing an entire television season at once is good or bad for viewership and marketing.
The binge model has clearly worked well for Netflix, but even Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan grumbles that, to a certain extent, the water-cooler aspect of an entire audience watching at once is lost.
“I miss having people on the same page,” Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan tells THR, adding, “I do miss being able to go online and have the conversation the day after. But it’s kind of a waste of time to lament that because that’s not the way our show comes.”
Arguably, we lost the idea of everyone being on the same page a long time ago with the spread of DVR.
However, it’s an interesting contrast to a show like Scandal, (or, actually, Shonda Rhimes’ entire lineup) because the social media participation and the way watching her shows feels like such an event is only really possible when the entire audience is watching at once. The fact that Rhimes and ABC have been able to capitalize on that is one of reasons her shows are so popular and engaging.
NBC will be experimenting with a hybrid of the binge and liner models when they release all 13 episodes of the David Duchovny drama Aquarius online while also airing a new episode each week on-air. Perhaps a strategy like this can work fine for a moderately-viewed series, but for a series that draw in a huge audience, how exactly will that work?
To a certain degree, you assume that most people are going to be binge-watching say, House of Cards, within the first few weeks of its release. (Although we definitely need to establish some sort of moratorium on posting spoilers on social because people are assholes.) But if half the audience has already finished the season and the other half is watching it normally, that seems to open up not just a spoiler nightmare, but also some difficulty in how the show can be promoted and written about.
THR points out how the binge model muddles up the schedule and strategy of having talent promote a show.
For talent promoting shows, it’s less obvious when to schedule a late-night appearance, and spoiler-filled interviews can upset fans. “It’s tricky when we’re promoting [OITNB] because I’m still going to be marathoning the weekend that it comes out,” says actress Laverne Cox. “I would love to be able to talk about every single thing … but you don’t want to give stuff away.”
The most obvious answer here, and what the future of television will likely look like, is that networks are just going to have to figure out which shows are appropriate for a binge release and which should follow the traditional format.
“Figuring out which shows are binge-worthy is tricky for a network or online service,” says Stephen Winzenburg, author of Putting on the Hits: How Networks Program Your Favorite TV Shows. “Some titles that are heavily promoted and build broad interest, such as House of Cards, can draw large numbers of bingers … while other series like Community do well with the more traditional week-by-week online airing.”
Keep in mind that they only recently figured out that non-white people on television is actually a good idea, so I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime, I strongly suggest you spend the next six hours binge-watching Grace and Frankie on Netflix.
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Image via Netflix.