Jun 15, 2021 - Economy

Bored of binging: Weekly streaming releases on the rise

U.S. supply and demand of binge vs. weekly released shows
Data: Parrot Analytics; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Consumers and streamers are gravitating towards shows that are released weekly, as opposed to binge-watching shows that are released all-at-once, according to data provided exclusively to Axios from Parrot Analytics.

Why it matters: Streamers are no longer competing against traditional TV for consumers attention — they're competing against each other. Weekly releases help reduce subscriber churn.

  • "By dropping an episode once a week, streamers are more likely to keep subscribers on the platform for longer, where they might find other content they like, and stay long-term," says Wade Payson-Denney, an insights analyst at Parrot.

Driving the news: Disney's new streaming series "Loki" premiered last week in its first installment of six episodes that will be released weekly on Wednesdays.

  • "Loki" follows other Marvel-inspired streaming shows like “WandaVision” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” which are also released weekly on Disney+.
  • Disney began releasing shows weekly instead of all at once as soon as it launched in November 2019 with a weekly installment of "The Mandalorian."
  • In the years since, Disney, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, Apple+ and others have experimented with more weekly streaming releases for dozens of popular series, including "The Big Shot," "The Boys" (Season 2), and "Ted Lasso."

By the numbers: Even before the pandemic, the trend was accelerating, per Parrot.

  • Data shows that 2019 was a clear turning point in weekly releases starting to outperform binge releases. That the same year that Apple TV+ and Disney+ launched, kicking off the modern streaming wars.
  • The trend accelerated further in 2020, with the launch of HBO Max, Peacock, Discovery+ and others.
  • A significantly higher number of weekly releases showed up in Parrot Analytics' top 100 shows last year than in years prior, per Payson-Denney.

What to watch: In an effort to build more community around shows, HBO Max's Sarah Lyons told Axios that the streamer is eyeing new ways to build experiences around weekly releases that will allow users to "congregate around content."

  • "We think that works for our users; to have a consistent drum beat of new episodes coming and provide a water cooler moment," Lyons, EVP of Product Experience at WarnerMedia and HBO Max, told Axios.
  • "[T]he release strategy plays into the communal feeling of consumers talking about it and reveling in it as it unfolds," she said in an interview that will air Thursday at the Stream TV show.

The big picture: Binge-watching TV was popularized by Netflix, beginning in 2013 with the release of its first original series "House of Cards," and peaking in 2017.

  • While the streaming giant has experimented with both binge and weekly releases in recent years, executives have made it clear that they don't have any plans to ditch the all-at-once release strategy any time soon.
  • Netflix's Ted Sarandos said last year that while the company has seen enormous success with weekly releases around reality shows, "customers have spoken loud and clear that they really like the options of the all-at-once model for us. So I don't see us moving away from that meaningfully."
  • Netflix suggested last year that binge releases helped the company build a strong cue of ready-to-release shows that were helpful to have during production shutdowns during the pandemic.
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