The rise and (sort of) fall of binge-watching: An analysis of streaming release patterns

16 August, 2023

Image: Lilyhammer, Netflix

The entertainment industry has been debating the merits of various release strategies ever since entire seasons of Lilyhammer, House Cards, Orange is the New Black and Bosch hit our digital screens all at once in the early and mid 2010s. The birth of the binge release — or blitz— was arguably the most significant innovation to hit TV delivery in several decades. Like a traditional weekly release or a periodic release — in which more than one episode debuts on a single date, such as The Boys Season 3 or Andor Season 1 — binge has its own specific attributes that help accomplish specific goals for a streamer. Now that the direct-to-consumer industry has evolved beyond its embryonic stages, we have more insight into whether or not binge has become the industry standard, a passing fad, or something in between.

Parrot Analytics examined the changes in both supply and demand shares for various release strategies among the 50 most popular streaming original series in the US from 2020 to July 30, 2023. Specifically, the supply share, representing the number of series with a binge release that made the top 50, has decreased by 14%. Meanwhile, the demand share, representing the percentage of the top 50 that each strategy accounts for, based on factors such as consumption data, social media engagement, and search queries, has fallen by 15%. Although binge releases remain popular — hello, Stranger Things, Wednesday, and Reacher — they have not become the industry standard. While binge releases are effective in creating intense, short-term engagement, impressing advertisers, and encouraging viewers to complete series, the focus in recent years has shifted towards longer-term retention of viewers.

In that same span, episodic weekly releases saw a 2% decline in supply share and a 3% decline in demand share while periodic releases, which still often release the majority of its episodes one at a time, rose 16% in supply share and 18% in demand share. Periodic releases are often hybrid strategies that utilize elements of both, though weekly and periodic releases tend to deliver new episodes over a longer period of time vs. binge. 

Neither binge nor episodic weekly releases are obsolete, as it depends on the goals of a streaming service and the particular content in question. But neither the century-long industry standard of one episode at a time nor the disruptive innovation of all at once appear to be the overall preferred method any longer.


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