Binge watching is a cultural phenomenon that drastically changed the way people watch television shows. While networks like ABC and NBC are still relying on the weekly release for the majority of their content, streaming titans like Netflix and Amazon have decided that giving viewers an entire season of a show on day one is perfectly acceptable.
And the watching public was more than willing to dive right in.
There’s no denying that binge watching has become ridiculously popular. Many viewers expect it. But there are companies that don’t necessarily want that to be the case. CBS All Access, for instance, didn’t release every single episode of its rebooted The Twilight Zone on day one. Instead it launched the first two episodes of the ten-episode series on April 1, and then released weekly episodes on Thursdays starting on April 11.
Apple will testing those same waters when its subscription service Apple TV+ launches on Friday, November 1. Apple is experimenting with availability, in fact. The service’s flagship series See and For All Mankind will be on a weekly schedule. Both will have several episodes available on day one, but, just like CBS All Access’s The Twilight Zone rollout, Apple TV+ will air new episodes on a weekly basis after that.
That’s in contrast to Dickinson, the comedy series starring Hailee Steinfeld that will have every single episode made available on day one. That’s ten episodes for those keeping track.
It’s possible that Apple will continue to do this well into the future with its various TV shows. This may not be a test of any kind at all. Some shows might see a full series release right out of the gate and others may get a weekly release schedule throughout Apple TV+’s life.
I don’t think that’s a great idea, though, because some folks might not be keeping up with all of the finer details regarding an upcoming show’s release. Yes, they might know that new shows like M. Night Shyamalan’s Servant or Truth Be Told are coming to Apple TV+, but they might not be keeping close tabs on how the series will be released.
Testing the waters
It might be fair to assume that most people these days expect the entire season to be available from day one. That’s just the impact that binge watching has had on viewing TV shows, for better or worse. But having a consistent release schedules for all of the TV shows on Apple TV+ should be an important goal for the company, just to avoid any confusion.
(People take off work to watch some shows, especially with Event TV, and if Apple wants to reach that level of impact than it needs to make sure people know whether that’s an option for not. If they keep it a secret up until the last minute, well, that’s not great.)
It’s hard not to see this as a test, though. With Apple dipping its toes into the “streaming wars,” the company may be trying to figure out what its viewership prefers in relation to release schedules. To the majority of Apple TV+ subscribers like to binge watch? Well, then, let’s go with that for all future TV shows. Do they prefer weekly release schedules? So be it, let’s go that route.
And it really does come down to personal preference. It comes down to available time to watch a show. It even matters if you’re coming in late to a show and just how many seasons you might need to catch up with.
I’m not even sure if I prefer one way over the other, honestly. For some shows a weekly release schedule makes sense. For instance, having a week between each episode of Twin Peaks: The Return made the most sense because that show had a lot to unpack from one episode to the next. Binging all of that would not have improved the experience at all.
But some shows, like Netflix’s new Living With Yourself starring Paul Rudd does just fine as a binge watching experience. The same can be said for Stranger Things or any of the Netflix/Marvel shows like Jessica Jones or Daredevil.
Public discourse is a major consideration too, especially for these premium subscription services. They want people talking about these shows, drumming up interest through word of mouth to get even more people to subscribe. And with Apple TV+ the company’s reach is vast, with the service being available beyond just Apple-branded products.
Releasing new episodes on a weekly basis makes that easier because people come back to it on a regular basis. A show that gets every episode released at one time is harder to talk about for various reasons, mostly because people can be at different episodes at any given moment. (That’s still a possibility with weekly releases, but not as big of an issue.) Apple would love it if people were on Twitter or other social networks and discussing every new episode of See on a weekly basis.
That will be pretty difficult for Dickinson, though.
As I said above, this does come down to personal preference — as far as the company’s allow it, of course. If Apple sticks to a weekly release schedule for all future shows, well, you don’t have much to say in the matter if you want to keep up-to-date on the title in real-time. You can still binge watch the entire season once all the episodes are released, but then you’ll have to dodge spoilers and that’s never any fun.
Apple is a cultural company that fights to remain in the popular zeitgeist at all times, and it has succeeded in this regard as far as personal technology is concerned. Can it do the same for personal entertainment? It’s coming out swinging with titles like The Morning Show and See and Dickinson, so it certainly has a good shot.
What do you hope Apple does for its new shows? Do you want to see binge-worthy releases like Dickinson? Or do you prefer a weekly release schedule like See? Let me know in the comments, and tell me which of Apple TV+’s new series you’re looking forward to the most.