You Might Binge Less as Streaming Changes Its Mind

To binge, or not to binge?

Key Takeaways

  • Some of Netflix’s upcoming shows will be released on a weekly schedule rather than all at once.
  • Experts say an overload of content and services and the need for platforms to keep subscribers is shifting our watching habits.
  • Binge-watching still holds a place in the streaming world and isn’t going away any time soon.
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Netflix is releasing more of its original shows on a weekly watching schedule, and experts say it’s a sign of the times.

Most of us have watched an entire series in just one day, wondering where the time went. On the flip side, we’ve also all anticipated our favorite TV show to air on its scheduled weeknight time slot. Binge-watching and watching weekly shows when they regularly air are two very different ways we consume our shows these days.

"We all have different viewing habits, and there’s no right or wrong answer, but I also feel we are all so much busier than we used to be," Dan Rayburn, principal analyst at the research firm Frost & Sullivan, told Lifewire over the phone. "Now there is so much content overload, even if you made a list of everything you want to watch, you’re not going to see it all."

The Good Ol’ Days? 

When Netflix’s streaming service debuted in 2007, subscribers liked the fact they could watch their favorite shows’ seasons all in one sitting. Now, the streaming service has started implementing more once-a-week shows in a regular cable format. 

The latest shows to be released in a weekly format include The Circle and Too Hot to Handle, but other Netflix shows like The Great British Baking Show and Rhythm + Flow also have been released this way. 

Netflix says it’s "experimenting with the release format [of the new weekly competition shows] so you have time to dissect and dish on every step of the competition as it unfolds."

"We all have different viewing habits, and there’s no right or wrong answer, but I also feel we are all so much busier than we used to be."

But Netflix isn’t the only streaming platform moving away from the binge-watching trend. Disney+ released episodes of The Mandalorian and WandaVision weekly rather than all at once, and Apple TV+ took the same approach with The Morning Show

When it comes down to it, experts say a big reason platforms are shifting away from binging is to keep subscribers. 

"I personally think [retention] is a part of the reason that companies do it," Rayburn said. "For popular series, you can binge-watch it all, then cancel the platform."

young woman looking in suspense at tv
Mikael Vaisanen / Getty Images

Some pros to weekly releases for the streaming services include increased interest in shows (by leaving you hanging with suspense), as well as greater community discussion (like live-tweeting).

"The anticipation of waiting for next week’s episode still has a beauty of its own," Michelle Davies, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Best Ever Guide to Life and a professional life coach, told Lifewire in an email interview. 

"Take, for example, the buzz that surrounded the next Game of Thrones episode. The shared thrill that comes from having to wait for what’s next makes watching that series a more social experience."

What About Binge-Watching?

Still, some people prefer binge-watching, and even romanticize finishing an entire series in one sitting. 

"Some TV series are just so cleverly designed to be binge-watch worthy, cliffhangers and all," Davies said. "The satisfaction of uninterruptedly watching our characters go through their fictional struggles is such a feel-good activity that’s hard to resist."

There’s also a sense of fulfillment in finishing the entire series of Tiger King or Bridgerton in one sitting that weekly releases just don’t provide. A survey by Statista found that more than 50% of adults ages 45 and under reported watching all the episodes of a series on a streaming service at once, with only around 10% of adults in this age bracket watching episodes one at a time as they are released weekly.

But in the height of competition between streaming services to get your attention and subscription, Rayburn says platforms have to mix it up with their options, whether that’s adding weekly releases, live sports, or original content. 

All in all, binge-watching isn’t going anywhere, but you might be forced to wait a week for some of the newer releases on streaming platforms.

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