Does Netflix Know What It's Doing?


In the last edition of our Network Power Rankings, I wrote that it seems like everyone's talking about Netflix, and with good reason. The release of the much-anticipated fourth season of Arrested Development had TV fans (and critics) in a tizzy. In the lead-up to AD's release, there was a lot of discussion about the company's practice of launching its original series by releasing all the episodes at once, and how it will measure the success of those series. "Chief Content Officer" Ted Sarandos, who's become a fascinating person to follow in the press, wound up in a bit of hot water for claiming that House of Cards' viewership was close to that of The Walking Dead. That boisterous comment followed a proclamation he made earlier this year that it's Netflix's goal "to become HBO faster than HBO can become us." But do Sarandos and Netflix really know what they're doing, or are they just blowing steam?


The surprisingly short lifespan of buzz

Netflix has certainly done a great job of dominating many conversations in 2013, first with House of Cards, then with Hemlock Grove, and most recently with Arrested Development; presumably, Orange Is the New Black will keep the chatter going come July. And although the company hasn't ignored the importance of hyping the quality of its original programming, most of what's being said focuses on the distribution model, the big names attached to each series, and the company's plan to revolutionize television. In a lot of ways, Netflix's primary goal has been to create buzz about Netflix, and then to talk about how the (somewhat secret) value of that buzz makes them something "other" than a traditional TV network.

However, one of the more interesting things to come of Netflix's decision to release these shows in full-season chunks is how quickly the internet seems to be moving on after the initial buzz of a show show's release. Although House of Cards pulled in a lot of views and social media discussion in that first week or two, the hoopla very quickly died off. Discussion about the show quickly lagged, and four months later, most mentions of the show seem to be about how the activity around Arrested Development has dwarfed itHemlock Grove only seemed to exist, conversation-wise, for about a week. I just finished House of Cards and found it to be pretty good, though not great. But I don't really have anyone to talk to about it because it appears that most people either mainlined it during that first weekend or gave up after a couple of episodes. 

Despite the rapid rise and fall of buzz for House of Cards and Hemlock Grove, I assumed that Arrested Development would be different. Although people like David Fincher, Kevin Spacey, and Eli Roth have their fans, Arrested Development is one of TV's biggest success stories, if not its biggest success story, on Netflix. The anticipation for Season 4 was unbelievably high, and Netflix got tons of mileage out of that: magazine covers, a mass of internet coverage, etc. As far as internet events go, the release of AD's fourth season was about as big as could be. And seemingly, it all paid off for Netflix; even though the company won't release real viewership data, vague estimates suggest that a lot of people checked it out in the first days after release. Yet, here we are just a couple weeks later, and it already feels like Arrested Development's moment is over. My "feeling" is completely unscientific, but I'm pretty locked into the discussion of television on the internet, and it sure seems as if people are moving on. The number of comments on Nick's very good reviews of individual episodes keeps decreasing. Are people less interested now, or have they already watched? Both? 


What Netflix should do next

At this point, Netflix's tentpole releases have largely come and gone. They built this new, supposedly revolutionary model of production and distribution around House of Cards and Arrested Development (and paid big money for both) that they just couldn't stop talking about in the press. However, now it's reasonable to say that the all-episodes-at-once approach limits a show's lifespan as far as conversation is concerned. And that isn't likely to change, especially because, disregarding House of Cards' eventual second season, the shows that Netflix has coming down the pike aren't as interesting, and don't have as many big names attached. The company has continued to cut deals to stream shows previously seen on other networks, but with shorter TV-to-Netflix waiting periods, so things like Top of the Lake and Rectify are becoming available to stream quicker than ever before, but I don't know where that fits into the overall approach. While I think there's a lot of value and intrigue in what the company is doing, I have a couple suggestions for making it better—and more sustainable, to boot.


1. Scale back on the all-episodes-at-once release model

I wrote about the all-at-once approach before the debut of House of Cards, and my skepticism has only grown as time has passed. While I really do enjoy burning through a season of TV in a weekend, there's something valuable about discussing things on a weekly basis. For a company's sake, there's value in letting a buzz build over a 13- or 22-week period. Think about what happened with Scandal or even Orphan Black this year; watching the groundswell take over is pretty cool. And because Netflix has decided not to release concrete viewership data (and that's their right; it's proprietary), all we have to go on are its generalized data points and our perceptions of what people are saying in comment sections and on social media. When you build a portion of your "success" around something like buzz, that buzz should sustain for awhile. 

I don't think Netflix is going to admit defeat and start releasing episodes one at a time. The company is way too invested in the idea of revolutionizing the TV distribution model to give up this early. Nevertheless, there's a way for them to take a small step away from the so-called revolution while theoretically creating more hype for the product they're releasing: Release episodes in smaller batches. Why not push out three new episodes per week over a month-long period (with four episodes in the final week)? That's still more original installments than a "normal" TV show airs each week, yet it also allows for the buzz to build up and sustain over a longer period of time. Instead of flaming out, the anticipation that comes with the first few episodes might even grow in the march to a finale. Right now, Netflix's model has turned TV into film: A big push for the first week, and then it's over. Putting out a few episodes at a time would basically be the best of both worlds, allowing for a big opening weekend but also for the kind of growing discussion and enjoyment over time that only TV can provide.


2. Invest in original original series

On the development front, Netflix would be best served to stop relying on big names and pre-established properties. Outside of the now-forgotten Lilyhammer, every original series that Netflix has produced is based on other material. There is clearly an audience for shows like House of Cards and Hemlock Grove, and I'd never criticize the company for making more Arrested Development, but that approach should be phased out soon. At the moment, it feels like Netflix doesn't have a real development strategy. Sarandos's quote about beating HBO is an expected one; every content provider wants to beat HBO. But HBO made it to the top by giving creative people who grew frustrated with the broadcast system the license to do more of what they wanted, not by adapting or extending pre-made properties. Netflix is already going halfway, in that the shows it's put out so far have come from some really good people, but those individuals are still playing in already built sandboxes. If I were a Netflix exec, I'd be searching for someone smart who's been spit out by the networks—Kyle Killen (Lone StarAwake) or Shawn Ryan (The ShieldTerriers, Last Resort). Those guys have shown an ability to do great work, and more importantly, to do original work. 


Netflix could probably stay on the same path it's on now and be fine enough. It's possible that in a few months, we'll discover that subscriber numbers have increased dramatically because of Arrested Development; we at least know that Netflix's subscriber numbers are starting to top HBO's, which goes a long way in accomplishing Sarandos's publicly stated goals. But before long, the perception that the buzz for these shows doesn't last long is going to solidify, and I think that a similarly troubling perception about relying on adaptations and the like could also take hold. If Netflix really wants to revolutionize what TV is, and how we watch it, the company might actually want to start acting more like a traditional TV network. 


What do you think about Netflix's current strategy? If you were a company exec, what would you do the same or differently?

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They are one of the biggest companies in the world and they must be aware of what they are doing, decisions in the corporates can't be taken by a single person, it always has group of people. i want to use netflix on my website Phone Detective but i think they will not allow this.
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Why does Netflix only have 10 episodes of S1-2 of Orphan Black?? I'm new to Netflix and am unsure of their layout. Do they only release 10 at a time? someone please help because it's killings me.... I need to know what happens next!
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I was a lover of Netflix but the cost of subscription is too high, and I am financially weak now a days. So started to us Showbox android app on which you can watch latest free movies, TV Shows even Cartoons too.
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I, for one, love Netflix's idea of releasing season episodes all at once. I hate waiting weeks and months in between episodes of shows. It's like being fed one chapter of a book at a time every so often - very annoying. Although the wait between new seasons is still long, Netflix at least lets you consume shows within single seasons at your own pace, and to catch up on old seasons at will...WITHOUT commercials! It's good that they are stirring things up in the media industry. Cable companies have LONG needed a challenge to the straight-jacket fare and packages they offer. And theaters have long needed to be pressured into choosing and releasing better content more consistently (how many summer flops have we had now in 2013)? The "a la carte"/"at your own pace" offerings of Netflix and other streaming services seem to be just the thing to urge everyone else to sharpen their game. Always a good thing.
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Netflix's release model works more like a movie studio's. They're just going to have to get used to the fact that the internet isn't going to blog about something which was released weeks ago even though it's television. And given how some websites tried to review Arrested Development (and now Orange is the New Black) one episode a week (only to discover all the discussion was dead within 7 days and no one cared), there's still a lot to be worked out with this model for everybody.
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The all at once model works for 2 reasons, #1. Nobody trusts television shows anymore, you get invested in a show and then BOOM its cancelled. So... most people, especially myself, now generally wait a season to see if the show will even last. If it does then I will give it a shot. Doing it this way gives us a full season to see it take shape, to give it time to mature, and to do it all at once without the frustration of waiting a full week to see an episode that is just filler, doesn't advance the story in any meaningful way, and does nothing more than piss us off and make us want to scream; Falling Skies!!! Walking Dead!!! Reason #2. Syndication, the quicker they can get to that magic number the quicker they can sell the show to the Networks, dollars, plain and simple. The ONLY thing they have to avoid at all costs, because it will in the end kill these other cable shows. Is the infuriatingly long time between seasons. A year for most cable shows, that on average only run for 10 to 12 episodes anyway. Ridiculous.
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The History Channel recently aired a new show called Vikings
Its original and captivating who ever thought this one up was
A genius (ratings are high for this show) the only problem is
It’s on regular cable TV and of course it has commercials
(History Channel has way too many ads) and a short season
not many shows in the first round and it’s censored by
Brainless droids. For Netflix it would be a tremendous hit
why do they not follow the lead of what people want to see.
Arrested development? I know lots of folks like it. I don't
I think it sucks and it is not original.

It is already known that shows that deal with historical
(fictional subjects) be it Westerns or sword swashbuckling
Knights in shining Armor, it draws millions of viewers who do
flock to these kind of shows. Look at Showtime's Tudors
4 seasons, HBOs Rome 2 seasons, Deadwood 3 seasons and
they could have had more seasons out of these shows but they
didn’t they are too cheap and don't care what the customers
like. HBO s Game of Throne gets big ratings great show
people line up for this one but HBO just drags it along.

Personally I am tired of the standard sitcoms with the same old crap you know
families with witty kids saying funny one liners and goofy dads with the straight mom
or the endless cop shows trying to convince us that cops are really the good guys
(This is not true most of the time) and they are not always our hero's.

It’s time for new innovative ideas, new writers, new talent with
new actors waiting to be discovered new situations for shows.
Time to think outside of the box quit being copy cats for the same lame shows
sponsored by corporate America who is trying to box us in a mold and sell us
stuff we don't need. Time to use unknown up and coming actors I am sure there
Are plenty of good ones who won’t ask for a million bucks an episode? Saves
money leaves more for programing.

Netflix could be the Next media giant if they play their cards right...Sure they need
Some stock movies and TV shows and kiddy stuff but the money
Is in original shows made by them...
Is this the future of television?
Is it cheaper to make TV shows?
Or Multi Million Dollars movies owned by the Mega Media Corporations and over paid and over hyped actors.
Let freedom ring.
Viva La Netflix.

God I love a good rant!
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I really enjoyed House of Cards but I think Netflix should go back to "one episode per week" model because there is no talk at all for it after 2 or 3 weeks.
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If Netflix wants to beat HBO at their own game, they need to take note of what HBO does with its original series' that other networks can't do: They draw out a meta-narrative (novelized TV rather than serialized TV) over a minimum of two seasons. Invest in the long-haul and your audience will stick around for it.
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Netflix / their CCO have a knack for:
1. believing its own hype; and
2. for snatching defeat from the jaws of (almost certain) victory.
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What ever they say... Netflix has a Looong way to go before it even come close to HBO in terms of quality original programing
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Here's what I'll say about Arrested Development: I'm currently watching s1-s4 for the first time (I'm currently on s3), and it seems as though those who claim s4 isn't very good aren't acknowledging that seasons 2 and 3 are kind of "meh" too.

I think people watch AD through nostalgia lenses, remembering the highs and never the lows. Is Arrested Development hilarious? Yes, but even in its season 1 prime, it was nowhere near as funny as later comedies like 30 Rock and Modern Family (which one could argue took a bit of inspiration from Arrested Development).
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Binge watcher here and as a consumer I can't see anything wrong with the model except that I can see how waiting a whole year with 10-episode seasons might get a problem for some shows which are just not *that* strong. But it puts pressure on delivering short and impressive seasons with much development and no fillers which is great for storytellers AND viewers.
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What I don't like about Netflix is that they don't respect the traditional format of TV shows. I mean, House of Cards lasting 45 to 55 minutes instead of 42 was okay, but I'm not sure about Arrested Development lasting 40 to 45 minutes instead of 22. I feel like it sucks the interest out of a sitcom. I'm still not up-to-date with the show because I feel like I need to take time to watch it.
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I am a binge watcher by heart and i think i wouldn't have enjoyed Arrested Development nearly as much as i did if it aired on a weekly basis. I do get this from tv.com's reviews about the show too. They aren't the way most people watched the show and thus have a completely different perception of it. Sure, the argument can be made that people who binge watch an entire season in a few hours are fans in the first place and are therefore more likely to enjoy it.
I am usually very cynical about big companies and even more so if these big companies are in the entertainment business, but up until now i didn't get the feeling that Netflix doesn't know what they are doing. The thing to remember is that there are no benchmarks, no guidline to follow in what they are doing. It's a completely new way so only time will tell if they knew what they are doing.
I completely agree with the other people here who mentioned that Netflix is in a favourable position for one very key thing. They know exactly what people watch what and when and how much of it. This is data other national braodcasting companies would kill for. They don't have to rely on arbitrary numbers spat out once a full moon by an oracle.
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I love Netflix and how they are making all the episodes available at once. But I do understand how some people don't like it. And Hemlock Grove and House of Cards is Awesome! I want to see more TV shows from Netflix!
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I don't think episodes should be available all at once. It doesn't work for certain shows. If a show has already been out it's easy to go look up something you might be missing and see what people thought when it originally aired.
I don't think they have to jump far though, heck the could just release an episode a day and I think it'd work better, though I do like the 3times a week too. Just hink of some of the best shows out and if certain episodes would have the same impact if you didn't have to wait a week for to watch it and wander what the heck is going to happen next, rewatching the episode before the next one is out in case you missed something.
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I think Netflix should have its own chat rooms for viewers to relax and talk instead of the reviews.. which is ok but hey if your going all out on new shows lets at least be able to get in touch with other viewers in netflix...maybe the chat-rooms could all watch at the same time..and answer the questions by.. those who just have to talk about the shows.. why use face book when they already have a great format for the same thing...fk facebook ....for those who want a one show weekly ration by all means watch one show a week don't make us all a prisoner to your viewing habits we love to sit on weekend nights and enjoy a whole season without adds and without the usual TV station drama hype..aka(HBO)...HBO beware you have competition in the mist. also HBO go online is nothing but a lag monster and the captions are out of sink and just plain suks..I hate HBOgo "we SUCK" should be their motto.
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In my opinion, NetFlix has positioned themselves in a position which most TV networks could only wish to be in. They provide content on-demand of anything. This is the way of the future. People empowered with the ability to choose when they want to be watching something. And if they are going to create amazing new content too? Then, I say, great!

Something to consider too.

They know what is being rented, they have a good idea of what works or not.

They CAN bring back shows which are popular on rentals, yet cancelled by networks. So, I can only hope that they will see the love for Leverage and take it in their hands.

Cheers!
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huh? what is this article about? if the way we consume content is different (binge), and the way they distribute content is different (all at once) then why would the conversation span be the same??????
i am sorry u cant discuss it with anyone now and i am sorry that tv.com thought that weekly reviews of not-weekly envisioned or released tv show would be a good idea, but we all had our great conversations and are ready for new ones!!
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How can they not do another season of Hemlock Grove after the finale. I personally enjoyed the show.
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I absolutely disagree that series' episodes should all be available at once. A major part of the enjoyment of watching these shows (at least for me) is the communal experience. Discussing theories, recounting hilarious jokes or situations, people looking at each other with mouths agape with eyes saying 'Can you believe THAT happened?!'. All that is lost with the all-at-once strategy. No one knows at what point others are at watching the series, so they either don't bring up the show in fear giving out spoilers, or bring up the show and give out spoilers. Prior heated plot-line conversations have morphed to 'What episode are you at? I'm at 3. Ah, you're at episode 5? Nice.". Discussion is stifled for the aforementioned reasons. If there IS a discussion, it would be very shallow as there's only so much detail you can remember when marathoning shows.You would remember overall story arcs (if your brain wasn't fried from over-saturation), but not the more subtle nuances that really can exemplify a show's greatness. It becomes more of a "Let's finish this show!" race to the finish versus a "Let's enjoy the show!". I am a HUGE Arrested Development fan, I was livid when the show was cancelled and rejoiced when Netflix announced it was bringing back the show. If I wasn't already a subscriber, I would have joined just for that show. On launch day, I blitzed through 7 straight episodes. I thoroughly enjoyed the episodes, but was watching fatigued through many of the later episodes, and was missing many of the brilliant jokes (which is very easy to do considering how rapid-fire their jokes are). I decided, at that point, to restart watching the series and watch only one a week so I could fully appreciate the show, and I honestly feel it made it a much more rewarding experience. I didn't wait all these years in anticipation of the brilliance of AD to, as Tobias would say, blow my wad too quickly. That being said, I couldn't discuss the show with others and I couldn't read any forums about it either. I was disheartened on launch day when people watched the whole new season and said all over the forums that it sucked (probably because they were fatigued and didn't get half the jokes). Shows are not meant to be gorged in one sitting. If you want that, watch a movie.
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Poor baby just go back to watching the basic big three ABC NBC and CBS and hey mite as well enjoy all them head busting commercials while your at it you can also discuss them with yer buddies and chuckle and slap knees..why don't you and your followers just watch one show a week if you can..I bet you cant and now you want to complain ..lol wat a bunch of wosers...
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I want them to sell individual episodes or full seasons. What the **** am I going to do with a subscription? I want to pay them for House of Cards and Arrested Development, and I think they should pay *me* for Hemlock Grove.
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Kyle Killen is trash and any writer who has worked with him, especially female writers, know this. He can make a decent pilot but he can't sustain a series and he certainly can't keep his hands to himself. The way he treats his staff (no pun intended) is disgusting.
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No, male. That doesn't mean I liked watching what he did to the women.
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Ooooh now things are getting interesting. If you would like to elaborate, I'm all ears.

(I can't know for sure that you have really worked with him, but for the moment I think I believe you).
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Are you a female writer who has worked with him?
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I'm conflicted because I like having all of the episodes available at once but the business part of my brain disagrees with this model. I would be interested to see the number of people who subscribe for a month and then cancel until there is a new original series available.
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With a quality series to release EVERY month of the year, then the buzz would be continuous.
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The community experience is important. In my case, I have to make efforts to follow the US schedule for the shows that are commented here so that I can follow the rythm of the other commenters. And, for example, I'm going to be watching Continuum season 2 also following the US schedule despite the fact that the episodes from Canada are already available and I could just be ahead this time.
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if I was at Netflix I would not do original programming HOC AND HEMLOCK GROVE were not that good, I have no motivation to watch Orange is the new Black!! I would concentrate on getting the rights to current TV shows to people can watch/ catch up and getting the rights to current blockbuster movies just a side note HULU PLUS should do the same!!! I tried some of their programming and they sucked!!!
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In Asia, most TV shows aired their episodes daily on weekdays at the same timing everyday. Everyday a new episode which makes 5 episodes in a week - Mon-Friday. Most Asian shows are longer (20 or more episodes) so it still managed to get the audience discussing for about a month. If people are invested in the show, they will followed it everyday at the same timing effectively killing off the competition for at least a month. They will not switch their channel everday at 9pm till the whole series ends. Perhaps Netfix should followed that model and if audience watch it for 1 hour everyday,it gives them plenty to talk about everyday and many will eagerly await their new episode everyday. Something to look forward to after their busy and often shitty day at work
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Trouble with American TV is advertisers they want you to watch more commercials than they do a show...I cant stand advertising. I would rather pay a subscription for a show and not be annoyed by intrusive and never ending commercials along with TV show hype and self serving advertising for whats coming up next.. Regular TV has done come and gone for me you already have to pay for satellite or cable and its not cheap and yet you still have umpteen thousand commercials between takes...I cant stand it and I cut my cable off in favor of internet because of said commercials. I mite be ranting but hey that's just the kind of guy I am..also HULU suks..
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Sounds great.
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This is especially true in the Philippines.
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This is fascinating. I didn't know about this. Thanks for sharing!
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Welcome. US and British TV is still the best especially US. I think it is mostly because of competition. Most Asian countries (partly due to size and market) have lesser competition and because of that, the quality and budget is therefore not as good. The stars of the shows does becomes more important. China is becoming stronger though. However, one thing is the same all over the world. Most people especially those under 40 are now watching most shows on the net. My prediction is 20 years from now, no one will watch TV. Everyone will watch large computer screens when at home and smaller ones while travelling.
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I now remember it used to be like this in Spain a long time ago, but now there are no shows that air daily at all. It was difficult not to miss one... but that should not be a problem with Netflix since you can catch up whenever... so this way could actually work, I think...
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I like the concept of releasing it all at once. Long gaps in releasing episodes has killed a ton of network shows lately. A show starts strongs, disappears for two months, comes back and no one notices or cares (it is the NBC business model). Even a marginally interesting show will get watched if the next episode is readily available, I call it "the why the hell not watch it" effect. Beside people just watch TV different. Appointment TV is, with the exception of sports or awards shows (I guess), over and done. Here is an example, last week I watched the entire 3rd season of Game of Thrones. Sure I could have watched as each episode aired but why when you can just do the whole season in one week On Demand? More and more people want their viewing to be conveinent and that is what NetFlix is specializing in.
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I'm in the process of watching the whole 3rd season of Game of Thrones right now. When a show is really good, I prefer to wait, and then watch it marathon-style. :)
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I actually like Netflix' current strategy- and I'd like them to continue with it. The author is certainly entitled to his opinion, but I think he's dead wrong.
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Great article. And really agree with the points made. I have to admit I'm a frequent Netflix user and I follow their original content vehemently, intrigued by the strategy and fascinated by how people react to it. I think the compromise strategy of distribution you propose could definitely be an improvement. By releasing smaller batches of episodes over a prolonged period, I think it would maintain the buzz and discussion around a series and also make them stick in the minds of the viewers more. I watched House of Cards within the first week of its release and whilst I really enjoyed it, I have to say I've already forgotten quite a bit of what happened. I'm usually really good at mentally maintaining plot threads and remembering where a show left off, but someone the binge-method and the knowledge that there will be an overly-long wait until the next season, has sort of made me anxious that I'll probably need to rewatch at least the latter episodes to refresh. In any case, yeah I think releasing episodes over a longer period would help and would also keep the anticipation high. For all the original series so far that Netflix has released I've been super excited up until their release, and then once they've been released, rather than watch 13 episodes in a weekend, I can watch them whenever I want so the anticipation is instantly reduced. It's almost like I'm looking forward to being ABLE to watch them, not necessarily the content itself. Having said that, if they were to release episodes in batches of 3 or so as you suggest, I think I'd be more likely to watch each batch as it was released and then be excited for and anticipate the next batch's release.
It'll be interesting to see how this develops over the next year or so.
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I think the major issue with releasing episodes one at a time, or in bunches, is that people would wait until they all came out so they can "mainline them in a weekend" as you originally said, Cory. Yes, some people will go along with the weekly episode format, and it would allow those people to talk about each new episode or batch as they come out, but I think long term it would actually hurt buzz by spreading out the amount of people who are watching when it's released. The "buzz" would go on longer, but the noise would be exponentially less. If that makes sense.
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One question I might ask is, what are the numbers for TV dot com. I love this site and most of the people on here are pretty great to talk to. But it seems like a rather small community in comparison to the entire Internet. On TV dot com enthusiasm reigns supreme and I like it that you didn't do your reviews of AD as fast as they were released, but still it was pretty fast. Strike while the iron is hot so to speak. House of Cards went pretty much ignored and it was an original series, and also pretty great. So I don't know how much TV dot com has to do with a shows success or failure. I agree that the releases should be less instantaneous, but by how much I don't know. Your take seems good and I don't like to marathon anything--perhaps because I'm older and wiser--but I'm not the norm. Having Netflix as a source of new programming is definitely a plus and I don't care who beats who because we, the fans, are the winners in that contest. So great article, Cory. What are the TV dot com numbers and how much impact do you guys provide?
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TV viewing has become a shared experience, and this very site proves it. We gripe immediately when something awful to our favorite shows happens, we elate together when Dan Harmon returns to Community, we anticipate potential, we speculate on cliffhangers, we record our friends watching Game of Thrones knowing a big event from the books is coming, we watch TV together. By doing so, we create talk, controversy, internet rage, elation, fanboy and fangirl squee-ing... by watching TV together, we create buzz. We look to professionals to give us their opinions, and we tear those we look up to down for not agreeing with our opinions. TV is best when it's something that we share together, when we can say to each other "did you see that last night?!?" "holy crap, yes!!!"

Netflix seems to eschew that mentality completely, they seem bent on tapping an audience who watches alone, who finds shows like Arrested Development when trapped on the couch with a cold, who views on their own schedule for their own reasons. By doing so, they can't replace TV, only replace services like OnDemand, and mid-day basic-cable reruns. Netflix is a great service for existing content, but their current method is not just a buzz-kill, it is missing out on the TV experience and thus wasting talents.

Arrested Development is a good example, you have some folks who frontloaded all 7 and a half hours on its first day, those folks either post spoilers immediately or can't help but give roadsigns for the viewers that come later. Then you have folks who can't put in that much time but watch a few a day, so they end up ahead of the daily reviews here and on IGN. Then you have those who are taking their time, and they are entirely left behind. And the reviewers come into each episode on a second pass, already knowing what lies ahead for each episode, which can skew the review itself in ways large and small.

In my situation, I watched a few, then the reviews here got ahead of me, then they took a break so I ended up ahead of them just far enough to not remember the episode enough to have strong feelings either way, so the last few reviews I just skimmed and made light comment, but it has no impact that way, it's not fun anymore.

Netflix really needs to reconsider releasing these on a pace rather than all at once, they are losing buzz and wasting a great resource. Amazon Prime is already nibbling at its lunch by inviting viewers to decide on new series by giving them access to pilots and voting on them. Hulu does weekly because it takes right from the source, TV. Netflix is losing the war on buzz, and losing the opportunity to keep audiences paying attention to the service and the series as it goes on.

Regular pacing also has its benefits to the shows, producers can see something's not working and address it on the fly rather than letting it drag the rest of their season down, The Good Wife with Kalinda in an abusive sexual relationship with her ex Nick brought the character and her storyline to a screeching halt, so that storyline was hastened to get it out of audiences' faces rather than bring the series down a few more notches.

If Netflix doesn't want to support paced releases, they shouldn't be in the market for serialized TV shows, they should be making movies and mini-series only, areas where traditional TV used to dominate and now has completely lost its step. Mini-series are a good fit for Netflix's current way of doing it, they're long-form stories yet still episodic. People still talk about Roots, about V, about Lonesome Dove and The Thorn Birds; look at the History Channel's recent successes like Hatfields & McCoys, if Netflix wants to dump all at once, that's the format to do it with, not shows cut and produced in series format.

Bottom line, Netflix needs to know themselves and their audience better, that audiences aren't isolated anymore and that socializing has become a big part of a successful series. Yes, releasing something like Arrested Development on a weekly or even semi-weekly basis will get complaints from freeloaders who join the free trial hoping to get it all at once before they have to pay the whopping $10 a month, but the reality is that the point of a good series is to keep people coming back for more, freeloaders be damned.
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Wonderful response! Netflix has a load of info on its audience, and I think that's where they assume people like to binge. But that's on OLDER TV, not new stuff. That's where they're misguided, I think.
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I'd like to add that comic books build on a wave of a release schedule, they come into the shop on Wednesday and fans are expected to pick them up at any point in the following week to be part of that release-date discussion. Netflix should expect the same with a weekly or even semi-weekly release schedule, people may not view all at once but they'll view within the same week as each other.
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Here is an idea Netflix should release the whole seasons and follow up by hosting scheduled watch parties on twitter, FB or getglue etc..
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I think the point about the current Netflix strategy has nothing to do with the actual shows. What Netflix seems to want with this strategy is up the number of subscribers on great numbers at once. The hype of the anoucement of the show draw in new subscribers and the possibility of another show in a month and a half or so keep them in. The partial realease would not draw everyone at once, some might wait for the hole show is there, but if the reviews were not great, they might give up. This also explain why they are choosing the do shows based on something, it's easier to get interested and wanting to see something you are already familiar with. Lilyhammer was an original production so nobody knew what to expect, there wasn't that "I need to see that" feel.
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Meaning that they don't care about the shows? Or that we shouldn't worry about it? Because I'm more interested in watching, either all at once or one a week, if the show is interesting. I think that matters.
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Their current model is great. Release a few eps over the span of a few months? No. While I like that they pick a few shows to bring back they also counter balance that with equal investment into original series. Haven't seen "Lilyhammer" nor do I plan to. Loved HoC and plan to watch "Orange is the New Black."

If Netflix were to release a few eps over the span of a few months who does that help? Certainly not the viewer.

Netflix is not a tv channel. I pay a direct subscription fee. I don't like commercials and the amount of content on Netflix makes it easy to binge watch. I love the fact that Netflix embraces this. They are content with watching the numbers to see how many people watched show x and that they keep their subscription because of it. Their PS3 interface is also great. If the same show has all their eps on Amazon Prime I check to see if Netflix has them as well. If both do (which Netflix almost always does) I pick to binge watch on Netflix because their user interface is well done.


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well said!
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What if you're a viewer who likes to participate in comment sections like these on a week to week basis?
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and come here to find the show isn't reviewed? Sorry but you all need to review more "new" and "popular" shows. I realize not all shows can be reviewed but there could of been fantastic conversations here--take for example Orphan Black--some of the most intelligent and scientific/philosophical discussions but no review until after the season finale (and we had to literally beg for the review).

Feel free to be condescending or ignore me~~but a popular show such as Orphan Black took a grassroots campaign just to get it reviewed here. So your question above isn't always relevant/applicable. I did appreciate that some shows at least got a review of the finale but for all the talk about buzz, it seemed like the buzz generated by the users (there were a lot of users buzzing) was ignored here so it makes me question the relevance of "buzz"

oooo...I wonder if disagreeing with a reviewer will get me banned
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That's not a Netflix issue nor should it be part of their strategy.

We are asking Netflix to adjust to a model that works well with network TV week-to-week model. They have built their brand to be the anti-that. "No, pay one nominal fee and get access to ALL of the content to watch whenever however". Which is something I can get behind.

Why can't both exist models exist?
Something the cable channels refuse to offer. A a-la-carte cable bundle of channels. Where paying, watching and discussing would be worth it.

I am a viewer who enjoys reading reviews/recap/informative tv/movie articles and participate in the comments section. But if I had to choose between watching something at my on pace (BINGE!) or wait week-to-week + have to site thru commercials + pay a gigantic cable bill just to watch the few shows on the few channels I do watch then I'll pick the former.

Why do people want HBO GO so badly to offer up their service without the tie downs to a cable bill? Because Netflix.
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I would enjoy Netflix a lot more if their interface was more user-friendly. Every time we watch something on there, I scoff at how stupidly the categories are arranged.

For example why, when I'm looking for something new, does Netflix assume I'm looking for a cartoon series from 1994? Just because it's new to Netflix doesn't mean it's a "recent release".

Why can't I search for movies based on the year they released in the theater?

Why, when I type something in the search bar and hit enter, does it include things that I can stream and things that can only be mailed to me in one big, fat category?

I swear it's like they went to the same user interface design school as Microsoft. Which is never a good thing.
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Oh, all of this. I'd love to be able to browse the selections by category instead of just what Netflix is highlighting for me based on my most recent viewing habits (and like I care about what's hot on Facebook). There are lots of movies whose titles I can't recall off-hand that might catch my attention if I see them in a category listing instead.
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Part of their UI challenges result from an increasing percentage of users navigating the menus on a TV with a dumb remote / video game controller.

Those users are going to search a lot less and they certainly won't set up detailed filters and sorts for years and genre. Hence the long rows of titles, up down left right, repeat.
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Apologies if someone already said this, but I wouldn't be surprised if Netflix knew the all-at-once model wasn't a permanent solution. This first round of shows was designed to generate buzz for their model, and that was best accomplished by hitting the market and hitting it hard. Big names, all at once, dominate TV talk for a bit. They're not promoting the shows, they're promoting Netflix.

And because they're Netflix, they can do whatever they want. I'm sure a change in distribution is already in the works because all-at-once isn't sustainable. But their first step was to announce their presence and generate some brand recognition as a place to go for original content. Mission accomplished, I'd say.

Now if they don't change the way they do things, they're in trouble. I think by next year you'll see them do either what Cory said (a few eps a week for a month) or even slow down to a one ep per week model. Binge watching is great for the individual, but not great for a TV watching community. Money is made off of communities.

Great article, Cory!
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Actually, I think that they are moving toward staggering the releases of entire shows instead of staggering episodes.

They released all of House of Cards in February, Hemlock Grove in April, Arrested Development in May, then we wait a little and release they all of Orange is the New Black in July.

It looks like a different kind of momentum.
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Great comment Tim. Thanks!
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I don't see the logic there, they are already a huge name, they could be building on that week after week if they believe in the series they have been investing in. HBO has a whole season of good press from their series, they have used their pacing and their HBO Go service and the social response from those to build their name. There's no need to announce a presence anymore, Netflix is a presence, they need to stop acting like the new kids on the block still stuffing giant red tickets into DVD players' instruction manual baggies and own that they are the largest streaming video service in the world. The way they're doing this, they are losing passion hand over fis... uh, bad euphemism. They are throwing away passion left and ri... oh dear. They are losing passion at a considerable rate from both viewers and reviewers, from the man on the street and the press, from talent to executives - they start with a big trumpet blast but let the resulting fanfare slip through their fingers because individual attention has splintered.

PS - way to kiss Cory's ass. ;-) Naw, I'm kidding, it is a good article.
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Ha, have you seen Cory's ass? You'd kiss it too.
What I mean with the Netflix name is the Netflix name as it relates to original content. Sure, we big TV fans live in this bubble where we know all about AD, HoC, etc. But if Netflix wants to go to the next level (which surprise, they do) they need to draw subscriptions for John Commoner and Sally Normalperson. That's who I think this big splash is trying to draw in.
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If I had a nickel for every time someone's asked me if I've seen Cory's ass...

I see what you mean about making their name in original content, but even still I think that's a very outdated view of how they see themselves. Content is now drawing on basic cable for channels whose names meant nothing beforehand, look at AMC's turnaround - proof positive that "if you build it, they will come", content is king and finding an audience is and should be a process. A&E ruined their channel's name with garbage content until they finally started creating their own voice in scripted content - Bates Motel, Longmire, The Glades.

Sure, starting off they won't have Bob Q. Everyman's attention, but since a lot of the Everyman family already has access to Netflix anyway, the branding crossover potential is already there. Instead of nurturing that idea of "original content on a regular basis", these content drops have made their content forgettable and kept the company name just another place for reruns. Basically, they just pulled a "Veronica Mars-Kickstarter effect", a lot of noise up front creating fan hope for their own projects (Sorry "Chuck") and then when only one thing came out of that, the idea was quickly dropped from the zeitgeist.
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How is it not sustainable? Their entire model relies on then getting content deals to appease their subscribers. Granted they need to create their own content in order to sustain their all-at-once model, but their entire business doesn't rely on it. I haven't heard anyone say that the only reason they have Netflix is beacuse they binge on Netflix Originals.

Personally, I subscribe to their Blu-Ray rentals and consider their instant streaming a bonus. I consider this model a great bargain. When Netflix decides that they want to revive a show or create a new one I just consider it a new title that I have to decide whether to add to my queue or not. Netflix does a good job at letting me know that 1. I can watch all eps instantly 2. Its a new show and what its about.

If the argument is still that this model isnt sustainable then neither is giving users free trials of anything. Granted a user can use their 2 week Netflix free trial to binge on a show and then bounce but I'm pretty sure most of them keep it.
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Sorry I should have been more clear. The unsustainable model I'm talking about is how its original programming is distributed.

It's the original programming that will help them stand out from their competitors, so yes, it is pretty important. Now it might not seem so big, but in a few years it will be.
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Dude Lillyhammer has a season 2 coming and it looks AWESOME. Arrested Development was OK when it was on but for me at least not this amazing show that I cried about when it ended (yeah Firefly I'm looking at you), I've watched 2 episodes of the new "season" and probably will watch them all? Haven't heard one friend (and most of them were all into AD when it was on-air) comment on the show...
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They're strategy appears to be to run the whole season in hopes that people will talk about it and get others watching. However, what's happening is that the whole process that would take about a year is being compressed to just a couple weeks. As such Netflix is throwing away the lull time between episodes that would normally help to create buzz for a show. A smarter strategy for them might be to release either a movie or just three or four episodes at a time each month.
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This is basically what I said!
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But I used fewer words. :)
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- I don't see how Netflix can be a revolution on distribution until they let us all be Netflix members. That is, as an European, I cannot watch American shows by paying Netflix a fee. How come? Most shows are never even sold to local TV anyways... so why cannot we watch them through this kind of company? No revolution until that happens...

- when there is not enough comments after an episode's review, I think it would be more lack of interest than "already seen", because I always have an interest in what people think of the stuff I have already seen, either now or 1 year ago... and eventually I would comment on it too.

- I would vote for 1 release a week for the new seasons, I do agree with Cory's reasons. Marathon is good for old seasons or eventually for mini-series (less than 4 episodes) than then you can comment on as a whole.
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What do you mean by a fee? We all have to pay a fee to subscribe, right?
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I mean that I cannot subscribe. I am not allowed because I live in another country. So I don't have an option to pay a fee to watch. I just have an option to be a pirate.
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Agreed with you totally. I lived in Asia !
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If Netflix was able to, they'd be in every country in the world already.

But they have to deal with a) complicated licensing issues to be able to stream content in certain markets. and b) restrictions from governments that don't want Hollywood content overwhelming local productions (see France)
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I am not blind to those issues - I believe that should be Netflix' goal: to beat those complications - because that will be the real revolution.
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I say this frontier is more important than scaling back on binge watching or investing in Netflix originals.

With as high as their subscriber numbers are, still seems odd to me that Netflix as a service isn't available world wide.
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A great thought that Netflix should produce shows by the likes of Kyle Killen. That sort of intelligent shows suffers a lot by being rated week after week to an audience without attention span. Imagine Awake as a Netflix original series. Probably Killen would,have been able to cut out some of the proceural bits that seemed to be there to pull people in for rating purposes.

Awake could have been a sleeper hit on Netflix, with all of the episode available at once.
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Yeah, the buzz around their shows is very limited. Netflix attracted a LOT of buzz before Arrested Development came out, and there was still quite a lot of it during its first few days, but after that it kind of disappeared.

I'm not a current Netflix user myself -- I had an account for a few days about four months ago, but canceled -- but I think I agree that it might benefit from releasing the episodes more sporadically. Even one a day seems better than releasing them all at once. If people want to binge watch it -- I like binge watching things myself, although I haven't done so with the Netflix shows -- you can just wait for it all to be released like you'd do with TV shows anyway.
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Well, and if you really want to binge, you can just use the Netflix 30 day trial and then quit. So Netflix doesn't even benefit from that.
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Can't speak to most of this article, however the AD reviews are simply coming out too slow. tv addicts like myself watch a couple episodes a day. the reviews coming out are from stuff i watched weeks ago now, and are not worth reading since i've already read reviews elsewhere. instant gratification - that's how we roll.
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yeah, i've watched all of them. house of cards was a very pleasant surprise. AD was great and HG was decent, but could have been better.
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The answer is "no; Netflix does not know what it is doing." Google "Act in Hastings, Repent at Leisure" for a great analysis that appeared a few days before streamagedeon hit.
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I remember the discussion around House of Cards in the comments section on tv com very well and I have to say, back then I agreed with people saying: give us everything at once and I'll watch it all in a couple of days. - And I did with House of Cards.

But on the other hand, Orphan Black is the perfect example how a show seems to surf on a swelling wave of (online)support and critics-praise in a way that does not only carry it to a well deserved award for Tatjana Meslany but also becomes a major hit and talkingpoint for the network.
And that is only possible if you give that wave time and room to swell - so to speak. And paricipating in that discussion is part of the cross-media experience we all seem to enjoy. And that is only possible if most people watch an episode in the same timeframe.

So, basically I have adjusted my opinion a bit and I think it COULD serve Netflix and the like well, if they release their stuff periodically as well.
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And if Netflix continues to revive cancelled shows, Happy Endings really needs a home.
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A much better show for re-watching than this new season of Arrested Development.
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I can't really comment on Netflix (or any online subscription television provider for that matter) as I live in Australia, and don't have access to anything like this.

Just wondering, those of you who are avid television watchers (and both subscribe to such services but may also download), why use these sites if you can get it for free elsewhere on the Internet. What do they offer?

As for Netflix's business model I think it's still too early to say whether or not their realease of these new shows was a success. It's annoying that they won't release viewing figures. I understand that they would be more difficult to gauge because of the medium, but not releasing any info at all makes them look bad.

With the way in which episodes are release, I'm torn. I will forever love the idea of planning to come home on a certain day of the week and be planning to watch your favourite show at a certain time. I guess I'm traditional like that, but I understand others aren't. Personally, I like the anticipation and buzz, and Cory is right in saying releasing one season at a time ruins this.

And speaking of buzz, doesn't the very fact that we're all talking about Netflix dismiss the idea that there's no buzz for it at the moment.
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I pay for Netflix and Amazon Prime for both ease of use and a clear conscience.

When every single episode is available with one click and it remembers where you left off, it's pretty hard to turn down. Also, doesn't it bother you that downloading those same episodes makes it just a little less likely that more will exist for your enjoyment in the future?
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Yeah, it does a little, but as I said, we don't really have access to anything like that here. And our main (and pretty much only) cable television provider, Foxtel, doesn't even air everything I want to watch. It's either download or wait for shows like Revenge, Arrow etc. to eventually air here on free to air (they're only just over half way airing through those shows past seasons). So in Australia we're pretty much three months behind everything in the US, and then there's some shows that don't even air here at all...
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That's a fair response and now I feel bad for asking... Ridiculous that the limited availability of streaming services is so obviously pushing people towards torrents. Both US and Australian content providers will eventually regret it.

I've read that Netflix now accepts Australian credit cards, which basically means they're looking on the other way if you're able to get around the geo-blocking. But that doesn't solve the huge delay between US airdates and Australian airdates when it comes to new TV.




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