A few weeks ago, at the annual UCLA Entertainment Symposium, Netflix content chief Bela Bajaria turned a few heads when she unequivocally defended the company’s patented binge-drop orthodoxy and declared “there is no data to support that weekly is better.” That’s not exactly true, of course, as my colleague Matt Belloni recently noted, and its veracity is even belied by Netflix’s very own successful strategy of segmenting the seasons of its most popular shows into two or more tranches to ward off churn. But the micro drama over Bejaria’s comment highlights a real and important issue regarding how Netflix is thinking through the evolving cost-benefit analysis of the binge vs. weekly question.
After all, we’ve yet to see that much experimentation in the tempo of streaming releases. A decade after popularizing the single-day full-season drop, Netflix has only recently moved into season splitting. Other streamers have adopted the hybrid model of releasing three episodes and then moving to a weekly cadence—still the best semi-traditional way to release a show when it comes to marketing spend and customer retention.
But there’s still room for new thinking here, especially as everyone pivots their focus from subscription growth to managing costs and minimizing churn. The trouble with the binge model is that it requires an endless firehose of new content to meet expectations and keep subscribers from churning out. So why are Bajaria & Co. so resistant to changing gears?