Weekly vs binge. That’s been the biggest lingering debate for Netflix for years now and while you may fall in one camp or the other, could the compromise of split seasons be the way forward at least for its biggest shows? We think it does.
Netflix for years has been facing increasing competition and more recently, faced slowing growth following the pandemic which has led both pundits calling for change and caused Netflix itself to reverse course on several key issues.
For example, for years, Netflix has been adamant that they will not introduce ads but given reporting in recent weeks, that’s due to soon change. Perhaps the second biggest change people have suggested is giving up the binge model which put Netflix on the map in the first place.
Earlier this year, we weighed up the pros and cons of going weekly vs the binge. For the pros, we noted how it sustains viewership and keeps conversations going for the title over a period of time and how it reduces churn. On the negative side of binge, we argued that Netflix’s lineup doesn’t support it which would mean bigger shows wouldn’t allow smaller ones to find any audiences as they’d suck up all the oxygen, and ultimately we concluded that Netflix’s UI would need an overhaul to support weekly too.
So that brings us to where we are today with Stranger Things dominating the summer and cementing why we think split seasons are the way forward at least for the bigger Netflix shows and here’s a breakdown as to why and why it’s good that shows are split.
We should caveat all of this with the fact that two-pronged releases aren’t new to Netflix.
We’ve seen numerous shows, especially in the past year, use the release method. Ozark most recently split up its fourth season in early 2022, Lucifer split its fifth season (which was originally supposed to be its last) into two halves and Money Heist also split its final season too.
Disney+ Shows Demonstrate Why Split Seasons Could Be More Effective
Disney+ doesn’t drop shows in two halves but from the performance of their shows we can see why splitting in two halves will not only keep the momentum going but also allow for shows in between the two halves to live and breathe.
If we look at Google Trends (which is not viewership but rather showing interest/demand) you can see from three recent Marvel releases, Loki, Hawkeye, and Moon Knight that there are two clear spikes. One for when the series premieres and one when the series finale takes place.
By splitting seasons on Netflix, they too can replicate this trend with the time in between the release of volume 1 and volume 2 allowing other shows to start (something Disney+ doesn’t typically do) and thrive. After all, since the release of Stranger Things season 4 volume 1, we’ve seen over 55 new Netflix Original arrive on the service.
To help the show not fade though, as we’ve seen with Stranger Things, allow for bonus content to be released, teasers and trailers for the upcoming volume which sustains the conversation until the release of season 4 volume 2.
That seems to be doing the trick with Stranger Things several weeks after its launch not dropping the majority of interest according to Google Trends as per the previous two seasons.
Split Seasons Allows For More Episodes Per Season
Another bonus from the split seasons we’ve seen drop so far is often they’re expanded seasons.
Many miss the network TV days where we’d get close to or over 20 episodes per season but if split seasons can demonstrate their worth to Netflix, perhaps it becomes more common. Lucifer’s split season had an episode count of 16 which was up from the 10 it usually dropped and Manifest is similarly getting an unusually large fourth season too.
Helps Reduces Churn For Two-Quarters Rather Than Just One
If you’re subscribed to Netflix only for Stranger Things, then with split seasons it’s more likely you’re going to be subscribed to Netflix for two quarters (or two months across two quarters) as opposed to just a single month that you would be if it just dropped all at once.
That’s good for Netflix’s subscriber quarterly numbers especially now they’re being more closely scrutinized than ever. Also from Netflix’s point of view, that gives them more time to try and get you hooked with something else.
Most Netflix Shows Should Stick to Binge
We should note that split seasons are likely only going to be reserved for Netflix’s biggest shows. Think The Witcher, Bridgerton, The Umbrella Academy in terms of scale with most of the other shows that are either new or much smaller in scale still having the classic binge model that you know and love.
With that said, some Netflix shows should and will still trial different release schedules to see what ultimately leads to the most viewership. We’ve seen reality shows release in batches of 3 (although data doesn’t really suggest this helps a series grow) and we’ll also see shows that Netflix has international distribution with such as K-dramas imported from South Korea drop weekly.
Do you like the split-season model Netflix has been trialing over the past year or so? Do you think it’s here to stay? Let us know in the comments down below.