Is the Age Of the Netflix Binge Watch Coming To An End?

By  · Published on November 4th, 2014


Not every television series is suitable for binge-watching – hey, there, The Leftovers – but Netflix has made its bread and butter from crafting alluring original programming (House of Cards, Orange is the New Black) and releasing it to the public in giant, binge-friendly batches. The binge watch phenomenon is a new one, made possible by the rise of Netflix and other online outlets that provide great swathes of programming all available at once, along with the continued availability of DVD and Blu-ray box sets (and, let’s be real here – TV itself has made binge watching easy, programming whole marathon blocks of perennial favorites like any and all Law and Order series to a rabid public). Still, binge watching is steadily becoming a normal practice, which inevitably means that someone will try to change it.

Is that someone going to be Netflix?

As of now, this is relatively minor news, but it could set a new precedent for how Netflix delivers content. Variety reports that Netflix is breaking with tradition – only the second time they’ve done it – when it comes to the release pattern for their animated Madagascar spin-off All Hail King Julien, which will release new episodes over both 2014 and 2015. Specifically, the first episodes of the series will hit Netflix on December 19,”with additional installments to follow next year.”

As /Film notes, “The reason is, animation takes so long, they would’ve had to wait too long to upload the entire season at once. Netflix previously did the same thing with Turbo: FAST, another DreamWorks animated show, releasing a few episodes in ‘pods.’ So there was a precedent.”

Uploads? What, is Netflix using broadband?

Still, while this staggered release schedule so far only applies to animated properties, there’s no reason why Netflix wouldn’t apply the same pattern to some of its other shows, and that’s not a bad thing. Sure, fans of Orange is the New Black, House of Cards and Arrested Development are now accustomed to getting a big batch of their favorite show all at once, but Netflix has begun branching out into other properties that simply don’t make sense to binge: like Chelsea Handler’s new online outing.

After exiting her contract with E!, Handler signed on with Netflix to develop a variety of projects, including “the comedienne’s first hour-long stand-up special, Uganda Be Kidding Me Live (which will film in Chicago on June 20th),” which premiered in October, followed by “four new docu-comedy specials exclusively for Netflix featuring her efforts to gain a better understanding on a variety of subjects ranging from NASCAR to politics and from Silicon Valley to the NBA draft.” There’s zero reason why these specials should all hit Netflix at the same time, and doing so wouldn’t do Handler any favors – why not spread the love (there is love for Handler, apparently, somewhere) for the comedienne out across many weeks or even months?

Binge watching – especially on Netflix – is possible because of its subversion of traditional television trappings like, oh, “ratings” and “commercials.” But giving viewers a whole big meal to chomp down all at once doesn’t always seem like the best way to pump up actual audience enjoyment, instead sending viewers spiraling through a mad dash to gulp hours of material at once. Does that work for everyone? No, even if it is becoming the norm.

Basically, if you want your King Julien show, you’re going to have to wait for it – and we’re willing to do the same for House of Cards.

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