I’ve written before that I think the vast majority of Netflix Original programming is not very good. But there’s tons of it and there’s something for everyone, even if that something is not very good.
Hulu has very few original shows and movies, but you can tell the quality is much better on average. HBO is known as only having high quality shows. They might not fit your tastes, but someone thinks they are great. Disney+ looks like it will bring the characters and universes that you already know and love and make high quality content around them.
But this post isn’t about quality. It’s about release timing. Netflix shoots their wad on every show. All episodes of Stranger Things are available on day one. This strategy leads to less buzz. For one it’s never safe to talk about a Netflix show with someone. That leads to minimal posting on social media. Contrast that with the social media following given each of the last season’s episodes of Game of Thrones. Even though many people weren’t happy about the last season, they were safe to talk about each episode because if you really cared you watched it on Sunday night.
So for every episode of an entire season awareness was being driven. This leads to greater awareness and to more people discussing the show, even if it was just to brag about how they had never seen an episode and are thus cooler than the geeks that watch it.
Let’s contrast that to Youtube’s Cobra Kai, which followed the Netflix “release it all at once” schedule. A month later I reposted an Instagram post from one of the showrunners. It was inconsequential to the main storyline of the season, but was noteworthy in that it was a callback to a favorite quote from the 1984 movie The Karate Kid. I was chastised for spoiling the show. Next time I’ll be more careful, which means less buzz for the show, and almost assuredly less money for Youtube.
The other problem the all episodes at once release schedule presents is that it minimizes the cultural relevance of the show. Game of Thrones got huge hype after all 8 episodes, each a week apart. Contrast that to Stranger Things which is the most popular geek show on Netflix. People talk about it for a week and then it’s out of the public consciousness.
Unlike HBO, Youtube and Hulu, which have limited shows and thus get subscribers who strictly subscribe for one specific show (I know this is true because my wife subscribed to Hulu for Handmaid’s Tale and I subscribed to Youtube for Cobra Kai seasons 1 and 2), Netflix most likely does not see subscriber churn when one program is done for the season. Thus they don’t have as much need to spread the episodes out. But Netlfix should still consider spacing out episode releases for the sake of merchandise sales and awareness.