Forgive the academic title, I am in a bit of a mood. However, the method of presenting and watching television is of particular interest with the looming Writers Guild of America strike over, in part, of the supposed numbers and money associated with television series creation and profit generation. On the audience side, it is apparent which model of television watching is more engaging and profitable for all parties involved.
This week alone, there have been multiple discussions and articles and threads and nearly full on academic theses presentations concerning the latest episodes of Succession, Ted Lasso, Mandalorian, and Barry. On top of that, there has also been invested interest in non-prestige, cable television series such as Abbott Elementary, Million Little Things, The Rookie, etc. Hell, even more middling cable productions like Dave and How I Met Your Father have still managed multiple seasons with an engaged, dedicated fanbase to call upon.
In comparison, I am having trouble remembering a series that followed the binge model that has had the long-term engagement and audience and profitability that even a mid-level CW show managed outside of Stranger Things. Maybe Cobra Kai, but while it’s been a decent hit for Netflix, I do not see major cultural impact or discussion or interest in that series outside of the two weeks of its release. I mean can anyone name the major characters of the original shows that premiered on Netflix when it pivoted to original programming. What about the shows from the last few years from any major streamer that did a binge model?
The reality is simple. Weekly episodic series will always have bigger, more organic growth than binge shows because of how audiences and people work. It takes time to create interest and engagement with any piece of media. The weekly discussions amid fans that happen after every episode stating theories about what just happened and what will happen aid in spreading the word of the show and boosting its SEO across most social media sites. As well, journalists and critics would have multiple articles and/or videos every week discussing the episode, audience reaction and perception, and would generate more interest and engagement through their texts for themselves and the series at large.
Basically, weekly episodes feed into the series intrigue by forcing interaction and discussion to be metered out throughout several months instead of in just a weekend or two. And that constant exposure and engagement breeds long term appreciation and enthusiasm for the shows and characters. There is a reason why Netflix fought to keep the streaming rights to Friends and why NBC desperately wanted them back, and lets’ finally be honest, it was not that good a show, but it did create a massive fanbase thanks in part to just being on a certain time week after week. People are creatures of habit, after all.
Inversely, binge model shows tend to burn bright and flame out assuming they get any real traction beyond the supposed numbers and ratings assigned by their respective streaming services. It is alarming how quickly all conversation and discussion around these shows tends to disappear within just a few days to just weeks after its release. Entire seasons of art in the forms of writing, acting, music, cinematography, etc. are just wiped from memory, and usually existence not short after, under current standards and practices. Yet, the weekly model continues to work and work well as we see even with subscription cable comparisons.
This is hardly new information, and it’s not as though TPTB are unaware of it. But, of course, the rich and powerful cannot be seen to be fools, so the charade continues until they literally just remake cable television for their own specific sites. Hopefully, we, at least, learn to not indulge their idiocy, especially at the cost of our own good will and (limited) fortunes.