Netflix announced that it will experiment with the release schemes of two TV shows, The circle and Too hot to handle (via The Hollywood Reporter). Instead of releasing all the episodes at once, it will be released over the course of a month, and each series has a series of episodes on Wednesdays which then release the final at the end of the run. That means you will not be able to bump all the deliveries in one weekend … and that can be a good thing.
These shows are not the first time that Netflix has broken away from the binge model it coveted, in which all episodes of a show are released simultaneously. It has released episodes of cooking competition The Great British Baking Show and music contest Rhythm + flow weekly. With The circle and Too hot to handleHowever, Netflix makes a statement that it is experimenting and trying to give people time to “dissect and dish up” the events of the program. In other words, it gives people time to gossip about what happened and what might happen next.
There is an advantage to talking to people about your program for a month, rather than just talking for a weekend. Netflix has probably experienced this issue The Witcher, with the writing of the program better suited for weekly viewing rather than an eight-hour marathon. This is especially true for a reality show like The old man, with drama leading up to a grand finale. This is the kind of thing you want people to talk about – and maybe sign up for your service to see what the fuss is about.
This is the type of effect that Netflix can try to repeat. Reality TV lends itself especially to a slow burn, which keeps the internet alive. Imagine if Tiger King more than a month or two has been released, instead of all at once. While The circle and Too hot to handle will probably not become cultural interfaces as Tiger King done, there’s a chance the release schedule will make them bigger than we would have been if we had all watched over a weekend and then moved on.
I’m not trying to say that Netflix is going (or should) go to the weekly release model for its future narrative programs. Yes, Disney was very successful with the model with The Mandalorian and WandaVision, but these programs also had a lot going on, and Netflix has a history of the successful release of narrative programs at the same time: the above Witcher series is still well received, and Stranger things was for a time an inescapable cultural force. It is also noteworthy that narrative programs and reality TV have different formats, and it may make sense to have different release plans for them.
The circle is a game show about being isolated in an apartment and using only social media to connect with others (strange enough for a show which was first broadcast in 2018), and it will start showing on April 14, with the final release on May 5th. It looks like Netflix is planning a similar release plan for Too hot to handle, a show where people try to meet each other without any PDA, but the company has not yet released exact details about it, except for a ‘June’ release window.