Both Netflix and Disney+ seem to be shifting away from the time-honored tradition of dropping entire seasons of shows at once, meaning that binge watching new programming could soon be a thing of the past.
I love binge watching new shows. I’ve watched every season of Stranger Things in one sitting as soon as they each came out. In fact, with this past season, I stayed up all night to be one the first to watch it. I avoided spoilers entirely. My sleep schedule was thrown off for an entire week as a result, and I got absolutely none of my errands done, but I didn’t care. I got to be part of the conversation through Twitter hashtags in real-time with other fans from around the world, and it was worth it.
If this sounds like hell, it’s because it can truly feel that way. Sometimes I don’t even know why I do this to myself. Perhaps it’s the same reason I put myself through the horrors of Hall H line every year at SDCC or how I need to go to the first screen of almost every Star Wars or MCU film, even if it means getting very little sleep for work the next day. It’s difficult and challenging, but the rewards for it are great once you get through to the other side. But this is clearly not something that’s meant for everyone, and it appears the side that can’t stay up all night and consume an entire season in one sitting is going to win this war.
Last month during D23, we learned that the new Dinsey+ shows, such as The Mandalorian, will be dropping one episode at a time. Now Netflix is following suit with weekly drops of The Great British Bake Off. While this is a trial for Netflix, it could shift their entire model of the streaming service if it goes well. And then other streaming services, like Hulu and Amazon, could follow in their footsteps. It could be the start of an entire industry shift.
Truth be told, there are more reasons to drop shows weekly than there are to drop it all it once. Racing to watch an entire season of something as soon as possible to avoid spoilers won’t really be an issue anymore because we’ll all be stuck watching at the same slow weekly pace.
Additionally, the streaming services can keep us all subscribed for many months as we wait for the show to get released. The Mandalorian will keep people stuck on Disney+ for at least three months because of its weekly drop (but let’s be real, a lot of us already signed up for the three year plan so that’s kind of moot). That’s a lot of extra money in those streaming services pockets as a ton of people linger long enough to an entire season to get released episode by episode.
And to top it all off, those of us who have a habit of disappearing into binge watching sessions for a weekend will be forced to come out of our binge watch caves and be social.
Haha, just kidding on that last part. We’ll find a way to stay indoors. I hear that the new Sims expansion pack looks quite fun.
For real, though: the one thing that will truly disappear if streaming services decide to stop dropping entire seasons at once will be the ability to completely lose yourself in these new stories for an extended period of time and sort of shut off the outside world. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the world is kind of intense right now. There’s something psychologically soothing about shutting off all the outside noise and focusing on only one show for a day. If everything slows down to a weekly release schedule, that will be lost. Sure, we could wait until the season has ended, but then we loop back to the spoiler issue again. I can’t wait months while a show is releasing week by week because I’ll be navigating a constant minefield of spoilers.
This is a tough one. There are very valid reasons to switch the model for both those with limited time and ability to binge, as well as for the companies that stream the content, but I can’t help but feel sad about it. As streaming services burst onto the scene, binge watching has just become one of those cultural things that we take part in. But perhaps this era of streaming is at an end and it’s time to go back to a slower pace of media consumption.
For people like me, this shift sucks, but oh well. It is what it is. Bring on Stranger Things season 4 in whatever way you want because I’ll be there for it regardless.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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