Don’t look for HBO to take a page from Netflix and make an entire season of one of its hit series, like “Game of Thrones,” available to its subscribers in a single instant.
Speaking at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom Conference in Miami on Monday, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes dismissed the idea of releasing an entire season of a TV show that way.
“We don’t want to put it up all at once, we want the water cooler effect,” Bewkes said.
I understand what Mr. Sandoval is getting at, but HBO’s method (air shows serially, but make episodes available on HBO Go in perpetuity) seems like the obviously correct way to go. You air an episode at a time, but give people a chance to stay current on a show (or catch up on their schedule) without needing to check out of society for a day or two.
Big Data might prove me completely wrong on this, but I think Netflix really dropped the ball with House of Cards by releasing it all at once. It stifled public discussion of the show because everyone who was watching was on a different episode, and everyone who wasn’t watching was exposed to commentary and spoilers about the entirety of the season. It basically gave everyone except the hardcore a severe case of FOMO.
Obviously House of Cards did well (though we don’t really know quite how well), but I think it would have been better, both in terms of “ratings” and in terms of viewer enjoyment, if Netflix had released it serially. People who like watching once a week could do that without worrying about spoilers, and people who like to binge could do that, too (either periodically during the show’s “season” or all-at-once at the end of the season). The only people hurt by this are those who would have watched the whole season right away – but, especially after the novelty of the business model has worn off, how many people really want to do that?
So I wish Netflix would take a page from HBO and give its subscribers an opportunity to watch their shows at a sensible pace without feeling left behind. I’m really looking forward to Arrested Development, but I am not looking forward to the mess that will result from its release en masse.
There’s still plenty of room for experimentation: What if Netflix released 4 episodes at a time, every 2 weeks? Why not release an episode a week for a calendar year? How about a puppet episode (just kidding, that is a stupid idea)? This is a great, rare opportunity to reinvent the way we watch television – let’s not waste it on all-at-once season availability.