Why The Streaming Binge Model Doesn't Work, According To One TV Exec [ATX Festival]

If you've watched any of the biggest television series over the last several years, from "Stranger Things" to "Shōgun" to Marvel's "Secret Invasion" (okay, that last one was a cheap shot, I admit), you're likely all too aware of one of the biggest debates forever raging among nerds like us: What's the best way to experience the major water-cooler shows commonly considered to be "appointment viewing"? Is the binge model popularized by Netflix the way to approach things, in which viewers are able to spend a whole weekend devouring every episode of an entire season all in one go? Or is it better to exercise a little patience and release episodes one at a time in weekly installments, allowing word-of-mouth momentum to build while keeping the entire production at the center of the cultural conversation for much, much longer? (Or, perhaps, we can have the best of both worlds through "Hacks.")

That intriguing talking point was among the most significant topics addressed during this year's ATX Festival held annually in Austin, Texas, attended by /News's very own Ryan Scott. The awfully important-sounding Presidential Forum panel turned out to be the place to be for some of the major bigwigs in the TV industry, including President of Paramount Television Studios Nicole Clemens, Sony Pictures Television Studios Katherine Pope, President of Universal Television Erin Underhill, and NBCUniversal Entertainment President of Scripted Content Lisa Katz. (Yeah, that's probably why it's called the "Presidential" Forum.)

Here, they opened up about their own preference between binging and weekly and went so far as to diagnose exactly why the former approach simply doesn't work, as much as the streaming services keep trying to make it happen. For those convinced that Hollywood executives simply don't get it, prepare yourselves for a breath of fresh air.

Weekly releases lend themselves to the water-cooler conversation

You know, it's nice hearing directly from the decision-makers themselves and realizing that the top executives in Hollywood aren't, in fact, entirely out of touch. During the Presidential Forum panel at ATX Festival, Paramount's Nicole Clemens gave her very insightful reasons why the studio has generally opted for weekly releases with their various shows. Referencing a "hybrid" method that involves premiering with three episodes at once before shifting to one every subsequent week (as Prime Video plans to do with season 4 of "The Boys" in just a few short weeks), Clemens gave this thoughtful answer:

"My favorite is three [episodes] and then weekly. I'm speaking as a studio, not a streamer, in this case. The problem with the binge drop is that [...] again, it's not one size fits all, there are some shows that do very well with the binge model, but you lose the opportunity to have the water-cooler conversation. To show up [to work] and be like, 'Hey, have you seen the show?' If I say I binged the show this weekend, you go, 'Oh great, I don't want to talk about it because I don't want to ruin it for you.' You are thinking, 'Well, it's available whenever and I'll get to it,' and then the conversation dies. But if I say, 'I watched the first two episodes and it's insane, it's so amazing,' you catch up and then we talk about it."

For Sony's Katherine Pope, "Shōgun" was the peak example of a weekly release naturally building up "anticipation" for each episode ... but, that said, it's difficult to dismiss the success of "Fallout" after opting for the binge release. We all have our preferences in this great debate, but the jury remains out.