It’s been about 10 years or so since we started binge watching TV shows. That’s mostly thanks to Netflix, who dumped an entire season worth of TV shows at one date and let viewers watch on their own time.
The concept totally made sense. People didn’t want to wait week after week for a show to get good. When people binge watched, your friend could tell you how great the entire show was, and that made you want to start it. Plus, how great is it to spend a rainy Sunday watching endless hours of a prestige Netflix drama?
While TV shows that dropped new episodes every week never went away, it seemed that it was only network TV shows on NBC, ABC, FOX and CBS and some cable networks that stuck to the usual model. If it’s streaming, more than likely the entire season was getting dumped on the same day.
Some would say that when “Game of Thrones” ended in 2018, it was the last TV show that audiences actually tuned in for week to week in huge numbers. It was must-see, appointment television, and if you missed the live broadcast, it was difficult to avoid spoilers.
So in the last few years, it seems that streaming networks and binge watching was the only way to consume television, but after the recent finale of “The White Lotus” on HBO, the tides may be changing again.
HBO always has a way of creating appointment television. Even before this past season of “The White Lotus,” the network has been airing shows like “Succession” and the new “House of the Dragon” on Sunday nights with one episode coming out a week.
Not only are people tuning in for these shows, but they are building anticipation and buzz week to week. Just look at “The White Lotus” for example. The first season was well received, but I could talk to most of my friends, and a good majority of them hadn’t watched it.
When season two started, the same could be said, but by the time this past Sunday night’s finale aired, a majority of my friends has started the show at some point during its seven-week run and were now fully invested and ready to watch the finale.
Every Monday after “The White Lotus” aired, Instagram and Twitter was full of memes and spoilers from the pervious night’s episode. If you weren’t watching “The White Lotus,” you were missing out. The same is true for “The House of the Dragon” and “Succession.”
Compare that to the latest season of “The Crown” on Netflix, and the hype for the new season died almost immediately.
Netflix dropped the entire season in one day, and the show maybe had one or two weeks of actual buzz. People binged the season in a weekend and moved on. There was no months long build up, or fans jumping on board before the finale aired.
Another show that continues to gain buzz is “Abbot Elementary” on ABC, which is a half hour comedy sitcom that releases new episodes weekly. When people though that network TV was dead in a ditch, “Abbott Elementary” is proving that people will still tune in week to week for a fantastic show.
I don’t think streaming networks are going to stop releasing full seasons of TV anytime soon, but networks should realize that people will actually tune in week to week for a show that is of good quality. The format worked for decades and decades, so it’s going to take a lot more than Netflix to shut it down completely.