Binge vs Episodic: Which is best for broadcasters?

While viewers love the Binge TV feasts from Netflix, Stan, SBS On Demand and iview, the jury is still out on whether it is a better model for broadcasters than weekly episodes.

After all there is something to be said for creating fan conversation, and having the time to savour the intricacies of dense storytelling.

Speaking at Series Mania this week Foxtel’s Ross Crowley said while Netflix is committed to dropping all episodes at once, HBO had no plans to follow suit.

“HBO has no intention of dropping every episode at once,” he explained.

“They develop shows that are intended to be savoured, discussed before they drop the next one.

“Shows that re dropped episodically are far more popular, far more engaged, and far-reaching, in terms of audience participation than shows that are dropped on binge.

“At a conference last year there were at least 2 commissioners who said hypotehtically they would much rather have 8 million passionate fans than 10 million casual viewers.

“I think bingers will start to burn out a lot faster than we think, and we are starting to see the echoes of that already. Shows that might sustain if they had more time to be considered are now passing through so quickly, like Sense8, that they don’t have time to breathe, time to get people talking about them, and they don’t get time to live.

“What we really want to do, and it’s a challenge to all the writers here, is to give people pause for thought for a week. Take it away, mull it over, talk to your friends, debate and discuss it. Then come back and we will give you another piece to talk about.”

But SBS Programmer Peter Andrews, who did the deal for Handmaid’s Tale binge at SBS On Demand, said the model should vary, depending on the content.

“I think it’s a case by case situation,” he suggested. “At your own risk, from a broadaster’s point of view, you might decide to roll out a piece of content one way versus another way.

“I see it as an opportunity to build, measure, learn -to see what happens with one roll-out, learn from that and then apply it to the next. If there are any learnings, you can feed that back into the process.

“Maybe I am saying the same thing as you: there is no ‘one size fits all.’”

26 Comments:

  1. It’s interesting that the general belief (and opening line of this article) that viewers love binge watching seems to be refuted by most of the comments here. I agree.

  2. It’s hard to argue Handmaid’s Tale is designed for binging despite it being made for streaming. On Hulu it was released weekly following the simultaneous release of the first three episodes.

    In general, I think you get more out of shows by not binging them. At the same time though, one episode a week isn’t frequent enough to really immerse yourself in a show. It probably depends on the person, but the details seem to get lost from memory when I watch more than a couple of episodes a day.

  3. It does take a bit of viewing stamina to watch more than 3 episodes in one go so watching 10 is definitely for the strong willed. In my viewing experience there have been few shows which kept my desire to binge watch more episodes and its always a matter of personal taste not what is currently trendy.

  4. I quite like having to wait a week in between episodes. Builds suspense and gives you something to look forward to each week. Allows time to digest the episode you’ve just seen. Also depends on the length of the series. I remember binge watching the first season of The Walking Dead, I pretty much ignored everything else in my life until I had watched all 6 episodes. But later seasons I prefer the weekly episodes (although, not the mid season break. ugh.)

  5. I used to think binge watching would be the best but that has changed, I find binge watching a show makes it harder to take in and will normally need a second watch, anyone! And the worst! having to wait a full year for a show to start up again rather than 5-6 months. I think a happy medium would be releasing 2-3 episodes a week.

  6. I’m a bit of a fence-sitter, so I’ll add a hybrid situation into the equation. Via PVR, I tend to binge the 1st half of a series’ season… and then watch episode by episode from there. In most cases, the 1st half of a season is usually setting storylines up, while the 2nd half is bringing everything to a head. ‘Wentworth’ is a great example of this, but there are many others.

    Of course, there are still the obvious exceptions. EG: I wouldn’t want to binge Handmaid’s Tale at all, so am thankful it is finally coming to SBS.

    Re: older series that have not been seen as yet, it’s a little difficult not to binge though.

    • I’m a PVR guy. Don’t mind flicking through 6-8 episodes in a weekend then go one or two a week. Networks love (or at least used to) double episodes.

  7. Depends on the type of show. Some can easily be binged others work better on a week by week basis. There’s no right or wrong but look at the content of the show rather than the vehicle it was made for and make a decision.

    My beef is with episode length. I think an episode should be no more than 42 minutes. I find anything more than that even if the episode is a cracker I begin to lose attention. Even if you binge watch a show having an episode end around the 40 minute mark and start a new episodes seems to respark interest that doesn’t occur in longer episodes. I’ve seen episodes on Netflix that go for an hour and I’ve tried to watch but even if its good I still lost interest. When your getting to 55 minutes plus your getting into movie territory. I’d be willing to commit to a 1.5 hour movie but 10 1 hour eps not so much.

    • I’ve watched 3 episodes of Ozark and whilst I’m really enjoying it, the 56-60 minute runtime is making it feel a little bloated and long in the tooth already… there are just some scenes that can trimmed considerably, or totally cut altogether

  8. For me, two episodes in one sitting is the ideal way to watch a series. I’m currently doing this with The Handmaid’s Tale.
    Just enough to fully immerse me in the show and still remember every little nuance and detail.
    Three or four eps I find too much.

  9. I could be described as a “boxed set” type of person using a pvr. If it’s a continuing storyline I tend to binge when I have the time and inclination and I will remember the small details that would otherwise get forgotten. Self contained eps often get watched 2 or 3 at a sitting. Either way, the ad-skip button gets a workout, to the broadcasters dismay. The water-cooler is in my kitchen.

  10. I prefer the slow release where episodes are discussed every week with friends, family and workmates. The binge shows never get that, apart from a passing comment on the whole series.

  11. Secret Squïrrel

    I do agree that one or two eps a week for the intense but subtle, well-crafted dramas that I like is better for the show in the long run.

    Having said that, I recently bought the first 6 seasons of Game of Thrones and, now that Le Tour is over, have gone back to smashing 4 eps a night. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

  12. Binging results in people take in less, remember less especially how, why and where stuff happened. Also the little flaws and repetitive elements tend to become more annoying when you are watching a lot of eps in one sitting. But it doesn’t matter because I can still watch them how I want, one ep per week. I am watching 12 Monkeys and Orange Is The New Black that way on Foxtel. The main issue is that few are watching the eps on the same page as me. Those who binged OISTNB felt that it dragged because the eps were very similar.

    • I totally agree with everything you said. I am not a binger at all. I have a mate who binged Breaking Bad in a week and I thought to myself how effective it was back when it originally aired that I would be left reeling after an episode and salivate for the next one… it would dominate my week’s thinking to be honest (much like GoT does to me now). You just don’t get that same feeling watching back to back…
      I don’t know how OITNB can be binged… it’s definitely a show that benefits from an Ep a week kinda deal… for me anyway. I would be so frustrated with it watching all together… so I’m convinced it remains a show I really love because of the way I watch it…

  13. Others have said it on here before, but Handmaid’s Tale is not a show to binge – my house has been watching 1 or 2 eps at time and then turn it off because it’s so intense. And then we pull it apart and analyse every bit of the story.

  14. I’m torn between the weekly episodic format of dropping it all at once.
    Dropping all at once means that I can watch at my pace and if I want to do a double episode or triple episode sitting I can.
    I do however miss the weekly drop as I agree that it gives a far higher level of engagement with the show and others who are also watching, it provides the watercooler effect and people discuss and we’re all on the same page as we’re watching the same episodes.
    The netflix model is great but you do get fatigued in trying to keep up with all the series that drop that things just go missing…. Sense8 is a perfect example I just haven’t had the chance to get around to it and now there is 2 full seasons and a cancellation, had it dropped weekly I probably could have found one hour a week to watch but the prospect now of sitting through 26 hours of shows when there is so much screaming for…

  15. For me, binging depends on the show, and the season length. If it’s dropped in full online, then I’ll watch it quite quickly. Other shows like Veep and Orphan Black, I will hold off for the 10 weeks and then watch them all in a few days, I did that last week with the current season of Veep. I just got into iZombie on Stan, so watching 2-3 episodes a night at the moment, wrapping up season two last night. Then other shows, like Big Bang, Family Guy, American Dad, Amazing Race, Bake Off, I will watch on a week by week basis.

    • I fall into the “depends upon the show” category as well, not just the season length but mainly how new it is. I do week to week shows, depending on the show if it’s something like GoT I’ll watch it on the day but if it’s something like Big Bang or Family Guy I’ll wait till the weekend. But I did binge watch Line of Duty recently while I had some time off work and I did watch the first episode of The Musketeers on ABC last Thursday, going to watch episode 2 before I binge it on Netflix.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.