Will Netflix and House of Cards Change Television, or How You Watch It?

This is an important time for Netflix. Last week brought us the reports about the company’s fourth-quarter boosts in new subscribers and income and this week, we're all gearing up for the premiere of House of Cards, the streaming service’s first major foray into original production and distribution (Netflix did shepherd 2011’s Lilyhammer to its streaming interface, but the show didn’t make much of an impact with audiences or critics). Never shy from big moves and big boasting, Netflix is ready to take its turn at remaking the television business model. In an interview with GQ, chief content officer Ted Sarandos noted that Netflix’s up-front commitment to full seasons of series (compared to networks’ more methodical pitch-to-script-to-pilot-to-series-order process that’s happening as we speak) is in place “to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.”

Grandiose aims aside, with House of Cards—and April’s Hemlock Grove and May’s not-fourth fourth season of Arrested Development—Netflix is going to test some of the assumptions about contemporary television viewing practices. The prevailing thought among reporters, critics, and even decision-makers within the industry is that we now love to marathon episodes and even full seasons or series all at once. How many stories have been written about these changing viewing habits over the past few years? I’m not taking shots at all those pieces because they’re right on-point, but it’s a little easier to look at declining live Nielsen ratings and increasing DVR ratings, or to read a data-light press release from Hulu or Netflix about certain viewer habits, and speculate (albeit in an educated fashion) that we consume TV differently now. We definitely do, but House of Cards is the first high-profile production to fully embrace those newer viewing practices and there are a number of different ways this could develop.

The tension lies between what is beneficial for us as viewers and what is beneficial for Netflix’s bottom line, subscription base, and cultural cachet. Netflix is betting—based on their internal analytics, obviously—that viewers want to have all 13 episodes of House of Cards or all 14 episodes of Arrested Development available to them in an instant. In theory, this is great for us, because we get the television we want RIGHT NOW, and great for Netflix because it gives us what we want RIGHT NOW and we renew our subscriptions, tell our friends, etc.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that. This week, Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein presented a compelling case that providing all the episodes up front might not be in the best interest of Netflix or viewers. Wallenstein argues that with all the episodes available from the jump, Netflix customers will sign up for a free trial, purge through all the Arrested Development and Hemlock Grove they want to watch and quit within a week, presumably costing the company money. He also warns that the relationships viewers build with a show over the course of a season won’t be as satisfying, or at least that they'll be much different.

I’m not sure I entirely agree with Wallenstein’s hypothesis, but it further establishes that whatever happens with Netflix, House of Cards, and Arrested Development, we’re in an important transitional moment for television production, distribution, and consumption. If these experiments are a success, in whatever way Netflix conceives of success, the company will look like a genius and maybe Hulu and Amazon Instant Video follow suit. Maybe more and more shows get released all at once and the broadcast networks, already a little confused about how “online buzz” can factor into their antiquated business model (see: the early online release of pilots), try way too hard to compete with the industry’s new normal. Fans can watch at their own pace even more—and probably complain about spoilers on Twitter even more—and the long-standing fears about mass cable-cutting begins. Even television critics’ jobs change, if just a little.

When you start going down that road of what-ifs, it’s a slippery slope. Do I think Netflix is going to revolutionize television? Probably not. But even if Netflix’s experiment “fails,” it still feels like we’re going to learn some new and informative things about television in the coming year. After years of dueling narratives about technology and new viewership practices killing or saving television, this event should give us some tangible evidence that neither is really true, which is ultimately more interesting anyway.

But, business matters aside, I’m curious about how House of Cards and whatever comes after it could change the way we talk about television. The popularity of episodic commentary has grown exponentially over the last few years; with the recap/review and its attached comments section powering sites like this one on a daily basis. If you regularly visit places like TV.com, chances are much of your social media experience involves television as well. It’s complicated enough to have to deal spoiler-phobia all over Twitter and Facebook and in comments sections because of time-zone differences and DVR preferences. Doesn’t having all of this first season available immediately exacerbate those social landmines?

Nevertheless, it all starts with us. Netflix is going to put all these episodes of House of Cards out there in a matter of hours—tomorrow marks the official release date, and the launch is set to take place at midnight Pacific / 3am Eastern—so now we, in some way, get to determine how the industry moves forward (or doesn’t). I want to hear your thoughts on this. How are you going to watch these episodes (or are you)? Do you think there is a “better” way to watch a full season? And how do you think the all-at-once release model might impact the way we talk about these shows?


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Well, interesting topic.

I started really watching and appreciating US (and UK) -television about 2 years ago. Since TV in Germany is mainly a steaming pile of ****, I was mainly focused on movies. I can't really remember which series drew me in first. It might have been NCIS - but thats mainly irrelevant to the point i'm trying to make:

After I got interested in a series - if by accident, by a newspaper-review or any other means - to catch up to the current espisodes and plots, I had to watch the "old" stuff in bulk. And to me, there is a difference between that, and watching shows as they are aired on TV. In bulk-watching I get my curiosity satisfied immediatly. If there is a cliffhanger in a show, say for a season break, all I have to do is put in the next DVD. Thats satisfying. But it also takes the anticipation out of the viewing experience. And for me personally, there is something to be said for anticipation. Like in the bedroom, it can increase the actual experience.

But then other times, I sit on my couch and look for the newest episode of some show, and there isn't one. That is very annoying - and happens mainly when there are holidays of major sports events in the US. Whats annoying about that is, that it gets me out of my rythem, hits me mainly unexpected and has me acting almost like an addict. So, on current shows, I like to watch them as they air.
But as there are some gems in your TV-history, on occasion, I watch a complete series in bulk. For example I watched "The Wire" in less than a month.

On a different note: Haveing to accomodate a TV-network schedule also made writers come up with ways to keep us interested an wondering. Those season-breaks strukture a season differently than you can and would on a show that is released in bulk. Bulk is more for a "mythological" show, where there is mainly a seasonlong story arc and character development. On a show like CSI which has almost exclusively stand-alone episodes, watching in bulk is a lot less interesting and probably will get boring very quickly. On the other hand, for a show like FRINGE it would have been a great way to go - maybe even to become more mythological.

So - I think both ways have their pro's an con's. But the main question remains: wether a show is basically good or bad. If its good (whatever that means) people will watch it. In one way or the other, and on one platform or the other. Me personally, I could not watch any of those shows, if not for platforms like netflix. At least not in an acceptable timeframe or without the annoying german translation.

As for the subject of "reviews and spoilers"..... since I first discovered this place, I found it prudent only to read reviews of episodes that I've already watched. Granted, that way you can't take part in discussions in the comments - but thats just something I have to live with.
On shows that I follow on the TV-schedule I do sometimes take part in those, which is nice, and even adds to the whole experience. Especially if the reviews are well written.
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I went from bulk viewing to week-by-week but only because that's how episodes are done. Without the week interference, characters relationships and developments need much more screen time to resonate. For example, a romance on a teen show can earn a loyal fan base in three episodes spanned over three weeks. But viewed in bulk you recognize it as the fleeting and forgettable fling it actually is.

Television is in dire need of a change and Netflix certainly seems to have a hit on its hands (every one of the showrunners I'm following on Twitter is obsessed with House of Cards or in desperate pursuit of watching it). But it also requires methods of writing and episode formats to change drastically. Cliffhangers can be less big, since they only need to convince you to put in another disc instead of coming back next week at the same time. The format TVD uses now sees multiple story arcs during a season with multiple "finales" to deal with hiatus. It has 6 acts an episode to keep up with commercials.

I say, let's see how Netflix plays this stuff out and how the other networks (HBO, Hulu, your move) are going to respond to it. But in effect, it might be the future of television. Let viewers pay directly for content instead of this tired and old commercials strategy. I mean, is there anyone who doesn't check his phone when commercials come around? It'll be a few years before network television is changed, but quality TV proofs to be much more versatile than originally anticipated.
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WOW Cory just shook my brain!
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Personally I'm totally in for "all at once" series. I think that way you get engage with the show, with the charachters better, you got truly invested. When i marathon series i caught myself liking them more than i did when watched them once in a week with all the hiatuses, sometimes it took me some time to even remember the plot. So, yeah, bring it on. We'll see how it goes then)
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I voted for the popular 'stream it all at once' but after watching House of Cards I've changed my opinion. This show is more like soap opera than the original which was more of a mini-series and a complete story.

When I finished, I felt like I ate a dinner of candy instead of steak and potatoes. That's because after watching 13 episodes it felt like very little happened for my time investment. The show isn't much different than many episodic shows in the US but the stretching of the story isn't as obvious when you watch a show in small bits. This type of show works better as a weekly release and I think you will see Netflix eventually change when they see that the press hasn't forgotten it in 2 weeks which means so will their subscribers.
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Like many here, I like both options. I have marathoned a few series and that is cool because you get completely immersed in the show. But I find I don't develop the same "relationship" with those shows that I do with ones I have watched weekly for a few years. When those shows end I feel a greater sense of loss simply because I've spent a much longer chunk of time with them and their characters. It's a greater investment and therefore I miss them more.

And what others have stated below is right on-- when you have to wait a week the anticipation builds and word-of-mouth spreads. But also if I can't watch for a week or more I miss out on the online community discussions. Many times I haven't been able to participate in discussions here on this site because I haven't had time to catch up on episodes and don't want to be spoiled. So I'm not sure where the answer lies but it will be very interesting to see how the landscape changes and how the networks and we as viewers adapt to the many changes.
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Disagree big time watching a series back to back to back until the end you build better relationship or ships with character example when I signed up with Netflix I ran right thru 24 and I had a new appreciation for CHOLE, plus you also pick things up better currently I'm watching Dr WHO in the same manor!! don't get me wrong I'm still going to watch my weekly shows as well but going marathon it is the best choice!!!!
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I can see how that's true for some people. And I love marathoning a series sometimes, too...definitely agree you pick up things and catch references better because they're so fresh in your mind. As a matter of fact I just got done marathoning Battlestar Galactica and loved it...that was a great way to watch it! I was sad when it was over and miss those characters. But for me personally I don't miss them quite the same as I miss Jack Bauer, Sawyer, Buffy, Picard etc. That's why I like having options-- pros & cons to both!
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I'd like to choose both the options in your poll. I like watching old shows or episodes, if not all at once, in a short period of time on Netflix. But I don't mind waiting for new episodes of my favorites if the wait isn't too long (Doctor Who!). I grew up in a time before VCRs when I looked forward to a particular day of the week because of the TV shows that would be on. I still get excited to know Thursday's coming because I'll get to see some of my favorite shows.

I anticipate being confused by Netflix's new Arrested Development episodes. I want to watch them in order, but there doesn't seem to be one. Wouldn't what happens in one episode influence what happens in another that comes later? That happened all the time in Arrested Development.

I'm thankful for Netflix for letting me watch shows I missed when they aired, like Firefly, and shows I watched, but really miss since they went off the air, like My Boys. BTW, the price hike didn't affect me at all, since I only use the streaming option, not the DVDs.
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I'm gonna have to go with neither of these options. I'd rather have a season delivered in smalls installments or chapters, like four or six episodes at a time. I'm a binge-watcher, but that only goes for TV Series that are already over. For shows currently on the air, I have two different ways of watching them: 1) watch it as soon as it airs so I don't miss all the buzz or get spoiled or simply because I can't wait (The Vampire Diaries, Dexter, Fringe, Community, New Girl, TWD). 2) I wait till some episodes have aired and then watch several episodes in a row (The Office, Grey's Anatomy, Go On). I'm really interested to see what measures are taken by networks in order to acknowledge how viewing habits have changed.
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I think it this is a great first step that needs to be taken for the Tv show industry as a whole. I was never that big a fan of Netflix but my flatmate service expired and I was asked to carry it on for a month and now it's 6 months later and I've enjoyed watching numerous shows in their entirety that I had forgot about. I don't care for the movie selections at all on Netflix but as far as tv shows that are always there and don't disappear over time, I love Netflix. The one downside to tv shows on Netflix is that they don't air until the next season goes live on TV. Netflix even has Cable shows like Weeds (Showtime) and Carnivale (HBO).

I recently decided to try Hulu because they (kind of) offer shows when they air. I even signed up for the Hulu Plus package, and there are commercials, episodes expire after varying amounts of time, and episodes don't appear until varying amounts of time. A lot of shows you have to wait 20 days until after they air to watch on Hulu and then expire 35 days after that. Really horrible model, that is confusing and all over the place. I don't mind paying to watch tv on the internet, I can even get over the commercials, but what really irks me is the fickle nature in which certain shows appear and disappear on Hulu. Not to mention they don't get any Cable network shows (HBO, Showtime, etc).

I tried going to FX to watch episodes of American Horror Story, ABC to watch Person of Interest, SyFy to watch Lost Girl and Face Off and other examples and it's insane how these broadcast networks don't bother to air their programming on their own website. Seriously, bring your own ad revenue to your website by simply airing your program on your website, and you've cut out all the middle men. I don't mind the commercials so much as long as I get to watch the shows when they air, and then at my leisure.

I've looked into Amazon and Google for buying tv shows and neither of them truly have it together either. I think each network should just jump on the Netflix bandwagon (especially for old shows that no longer air) and/or just cut out all the middle men and air the tv shows on their own channel and charge a nominal fee for commercial free access or free for access with commercials, simple.
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It might seem like a good idea but it will only loose the producers money. Online shows just don't get the same ad revenue that TV shows do. Plus, there isn't the time for shows to create a buzz and build an audience. Popular shows wouldn't have the chance to raise larger ad revenues while the company doesn't have the option to cancel an unpopular show.
And they wouldn't revolutionize anything. People already download full seasons, although not always from legal sources, and marathon them. This is the equivalent of a direct-to-video TV show.
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But Netflix doesn't need the ad revenue (in theory); their ad money comes from subscriptions. Just like HBO.
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So, they make available like what, 13 eps at once? Ok, you view them within 3 days lets say. And you like it. Then what? You wait for 362 days for the next bunch?

I don't know, seems ok (at least you get to see all the episodes of at least one season, not 10/13 and then it's cancelled and you don't have at least an ending) , as long as there are enough shows to keep me occupied for the whole year - or at least 7-8 months

What I love about TV that I can't have in movies, is that most of the time there is more to come. When you see a movie, it might be great but that's it, you spend 2-3 hours, talk about it maybe a week, see it once more, expect the DVD but there is no commitement for more than that. With TV Shows you get a feeling of commitment for 4-5 years if the show is any good

So, unless they keep bringing more shows or they produce more "seasons" per calendar year, I'd stick with the GoT tactic: 10 great episodes in 10 great consecutive weeks, maybe a marathon after 3 months, that gets you through the year.

Also, what about Internet talk? How can I talk about my favorite show when I'd seen 3 episodes, another guy has seen 6 and the next one the full season?
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the first episode was great watching the second as i type.
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Oh man, I forgot the most important reason I like the idea of this format! None of this canceling of shows mid-season or distributing the episodes out of order! They write and shoot an entire season's arc before we see any of it, so it will be more like HBO, Showtime, or BBC for that matter. Which I like. It always feels like the cable and British shows actually have a "plan", rather than just dragging it out as long as they can!
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Couldn't agree more!
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That's a really, really great point. The up-front agreement means the full order will run, especially when there's nothing to "replace" HoC with like a network would have to.
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Generally, I greatly prefer binging! I sometimes actually wait until the end of the season or until the series finale has aired to begin watching. That way I can A) Hear from others if the show is good, B) Hear if it actually got a fair end or just a cliffhanger, and C) Most importantly, watch it in my preferred format, watching all of the episodes over the course of a month, and watching nothing else.

But. . . in the past few years I've gotten a bit addicted to social interaction on tvdotcom. Because of it, there are some shows I watch on a weekly basis. It will be a little harder to socialize about tv with everyone watching at their own pace. On the other hand, there are shows that I am behind on (at least a season behind on Supernatural, for example) that I still plan to finish someday. I avoid articles about it and nothing has been spoiled. (Except that I noticed this week that I can look forward to Felicia Day playing a hot nerd, as usual!) When I finally get around to watching, I'll go to old forum topics or articles and babble if I'm in the social mood. Haha, the hardcore fans will still be around to reply to me. For example, I find myself on the Buffy or Queer As Folk pages from time to time. You know, just to check in and see if anyone new has discovered it. ;)

But yeah, in general, I think it's a brilliant idea. People who are willing to scam Netflix and sign up for free trials just to see one show are the same people who might just download it illegally if the free trial weren't an option, so I don't really see that being a problem. I think Netflix's DVDs, streaming library, and now original shows, will definitely continue to attract customers!
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I imagine myself popular series getting released with a whole season at once, and people chrushing their smartTV-keyboards because the server is overloaded. Brrr!
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why?
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Anyone remember about a year and a half ago or so when everyone was screaming about how horrible and greedy Netflix was and how it was such a terrible service and it was going to go down in flames and run itself into the ground and never be heard from again all because of a minor monthly price hike? Anyone else remember that? Just wondering.
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When they basically doubled their price after years of not growing their catalog? Yes, that's when I left.
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Ok. So don't enjoy binge watching lots of great tv shows at the convenience of your own pace for a much cheaper price than renting or buying the dvds like the rest of us then. That's fine with me.
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Enjoy what? I already watched everything on Netflix that is interesting to me and they've added nothing I haven't seen and want to in years.
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I don't disagree with you. I was just making a point about the huge difference in opinions from then to now.
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People like to complain. You have to admit that the idea to split the company in two was unbelievably dumb. Can't under-estimate bad PR.
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Ok. As I said, that's fine with me.
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I love to marathon series. But I do find it really hard to switch back to a normal viewing schedule. I am always more critical, impatient, and harsher. When you marathon, a so-so episode is no big deal the next one is gonna automatically start in 30 seconds, but if you've waited and thought about it for a week (or more) and patiently set your DVR and it is lackluster or filler I am so much more upset about it than I would be if I hadn't been so anxious for the next part of the story. I am much much kinder to shows that I've never binged on.
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That is true, I do the same thing. When an episode of a weekly watched show is not up to par I'm much more disappointed.
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It's interesting that you bring that up. I feel the same way. If I catch up with a show on Netflix, it's always so much easier to be critical when I watch on a weekly basis later.
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i am so sick of the long gaps in series currently in the USA. waiting 4-5months for the 2nd half of a series, if netflix's idea works then it may get executives to rethink their scheduling. Or even get the main networks to produce quality mini series and air them over a week
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Patience is a virtue, and all that.
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OMG--I thought I was the only one who " love to marathon episodes and even full seasons or series all at once"

I watched all the seasons of archer in a couple days and now have to watch on line the current season's episodes after it airs. I like the "marathon" method the best but once caught up, it sucks to wait until a new season or new episode....but then I just marathon another show:)

I don't twitter and hardly ever use facebook (years) and I just come to tv dot com when shows are buffering. In other words I don't read/hear about spoilers unless I look for them (i.e., read a review titled something like "should I watch....".

I never watch tv on tv and watch it all on line...I didn't create the rating system and back when I use to watch tv I hardly ever watched commercials....time to get a soda or do other things (pre-dvr times)
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It's "bingeing", not "binging". :) (unless you're a Microsoft employee searching the interwebs)
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binge: intr.v. binged, bing·ing or binge·ing, bing·es
Both are okay :)
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I think possible half season being made available would be particularly innovative like how USA does a lot of their spring/fall/summer/winter break up with the overall arc carrying over into the next to encapsulate viewers a bit more rather than the whole season at once which gives production the ability to film all at once and still have two seasons worth of material to debut the next year.
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Good idea. House of Cards got a 26 episode order, so they're sort of doing that anyway. It's just reconfiguring what we think of as a discrete season.
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A change in release model will not just affect how a show is consumed, it will also affect how it is produced. An all-at-once release means a single deadline to meet instead of thirteen, allowing for more flexible scheduling. This could save money (eg, shooting all the scenes that occur at a particular location at once to reduce setup/transportation costs) and reduce the risk of mid-season slump (producers would have a huge incentive to plan out the entire season before breaking out the cameras).

On the other hand, there would be no opportunity for viewer response to early episodes to inform the production of later ones (eg expect to see more canceled shows end with never-to-be-resolved cliffhangers) and the discontinuities introduced by basically shooting all episodes at once would reduce the cast's/crew's ability to "settle in" (most shows seem to need a few eps to work out the kinks, and there would be less chance for that).
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Yep. Though, most HBO shows are already done with production by the time we see the seasons too. Girls S2 was already beginning production by the time we saw a minute of the pilot, for example.
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I binge on television whenever possible, if anything it keeps me hooked. So many shows have fallen from my watch list purely because I forget about them or lose interest when the networks take them off air for weeks or months at a time. And if anything it's even more satisfying smashing through a season none stop, you don't lose interest in the characters and connect with them faster.
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The only way for Netflix and viewers to be both happy-ish is a 50/50 split
1st month release half the season
2nd month release the second half but remove the first half
3rd month allow whole season to be put so that normal subscription holders can re-watch it and enjoy show, and if people join for a month, to watch the show for free, then they will have to join in the 3rd or later months if they want to watch the whole thing at once and not pay. meaning by then they will probably have herd spoilers and watched everyone around them say how much they like a show.
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That's an interesting idea too. Sort of what the networks do on Hulu, or what HBO does with various things on HBO GO.
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I think many of us still have "appointment" viewing. That being something we truly love watching and will do whatever we can to see it live. I am one of those people. One of those shows would be Breaking Bad. I want to be able to go online without seeing spoilers and be able to talk about the show at work with friends etc. There may be people that use DVR, but I still see shows that "trend" on twitter while it's happening. So that is something that you can't get if you simply are releasing a season all at once.

Like some have stated below you lose that buzz that is created on facebook or twitter when you release this way. I'll certainly be giving House of Cards a chance has I am a streaming subscriber to Netflix.

One thing that might be interesting to see if they might eventually do a "live" streaming of the show at a certain date and time every week for whatever the episode order is and have some type of chat or connection to twitter below the streaming video for people to talk about the show has it happens. It could draw in people in people to be there for the show every week.
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I'm guessing the bet Netflix is making is that enough people will watch quickly, and then go to FB, Twitter, etc. to discuss it and hopefully spread the word. It's not quite the same, but that principle will still be in play somehow, right?
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If the whole season release thing hurts Netflix's bottom line, I ask only one thing as a Netflix customer: PLEASE DO NOT ADD COMMERCIALS!
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I can handle 1-2 commercials before the show starts (time to get a diet pepsi) but no commercials once it starts!
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Seconded. Commercials are the reason I chose Netflix over Hulu Plus. The streaming commercials play the same adverts repeatedly and they are never relevant to my spending habits or product choices (but I do give Hulu props for devoting significant advert air time to NPOs and good causes). (I especially HATE pharmaceutical adverts and believe they are a significant indicator of the poor state of US healthcare, but that is a rant of a different flavor.) Hopefully Netflix can sort out this business model without ruining what currently works.
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I think the real frustration is having 3 episodes, then 2 weeks of break, than another bunch of episodes, then a month of pause, other 3-4 episodes, etc...

I understand the reason for specific periods of the year (i.e. Christmas) but done like it is done now, that is basically randomly, it's the worst possible scheduling ever.
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AGREED! That is my single largest complaint with network and cable content providers. There does not seem to be much rhyme or reason to scheduling, and from a viewer standpoint, the discontinuity diminishes both commitment and enthusiasm. While the USA & AMC -esque "mid-season breaks" are irritating and disorienting, it drives me absolutely nuts to become invested in a storyline, be faced with a cliffhanger, then forced to look elsewhere to entertain myself for 2-3 weeks whilst the network airs reruns, only to return with another first run episode, then more reruns (CBS, are you reading this???).

I understand original programming costs money to produce, but the BBC has been producing and delivering quality content for more than 90 years on a public broadcasting model at a fraction of the costs the big traditional US networks complain over. Network programming breaks for special events are understandable, even welcome I guess, but reruns airing during the current season appear, from the viewer and loyal fan's perspective, like the network is incompetent, lacks commitment to our favorite shows and has little to no respect for our commitment to our favorite shows. Just air a contiguous season, with whatever necessary breaks for special events, then rerun the entire season in the off-season, or if you need to fill your schedule, do what E! does and run mindless low-cost reality that no one is going to watch anyway, but please stop behaving as if the lot of 21st century network execs have failed to grasp the basics of the Gregorian calendar and believe their viewers are captive buffoons too simple to notice and without a plethora of equally engaging alternate options to choose from (the reason DVR technology evolved to simultaneous time-slot recording).

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I totally agree with what you guys are saying. I think this is especially frustrating with shows that are highly serialized; it becomes harder to follow and stay interested in the multiple story arcs. Over the past few years, there have been some shows that I have deliberately avoided watching or reading about on social media until the season comes out on DVD or Netflix streaming.
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I just want to say the BBC puts out so many great shows and I wish BBC America had more then just Top Gear. I stream a lot of BBC dramas and I also watch QI.
However, Sherlock needs more episodes per season:)
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The best part of episode-by-episode distribution is the conversation continues over the course of the season. Buzz elevates (see: Homeland). House of Cards will come out, and early watchers will talk about it right away. The novelty of the model will get a little more chatter than normal, but after that, we'll have moved on to the next thing. There's no zeitgeist around the show because everyone watches it on their own time.

Releasing everything at once is a service to the people (more specifically binge watchers), but it's not good for the business. Maybe something in the middle (3-4 episodes per week?) is a better compromise.

I think there's also a psychological effect to having everything in front of you at once. I'm less likely to watch all of that over a period of time than I am to watch an show that's released weekly because of a feeling of keeping up with it. I see a whole season of Netflix as a 13-hour chore. I see an hour a week as entertainment. Just me?
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If the Netflix model has at least one thing going for it, it is delivered flexibility. I like being able to shift my viewing in around my zany schedule. But I miss connecting with online communities when I am not able to keep up with airing schedules.

I think fans and social media will need to adapt around this delivery model, perhaps adopting something like the bookclub format for discussion and buzz. Communities will grow around both the bingeing and episode-by-episode viewing fans, and in turn fans will need to be tolerant of and/or avoid sites and pages that do not serve their viewing habits.

TV dot com has already experimented with building communities and conversations around this type of delivery model with projects like the Veronica Mars Dossier (which I would love to see you, Tim, do something similar with The Wire) and I think with some forethought and conversation issues can be raised and page/site design can be adopted accommodating various viewer behaviors. However, I think the time to have those conversations is weeks rather than hours before the content is released to the public.

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But I should also add I'm VERY intrigued to see how this plays out.
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I sometimes like shows in a clump, but usually only when they're really good story arcs, or they're crappy shows and it's just a lark. Here, I think pacing will help it feel like a real show and will help keep buzz going after the initial excitement of the initial release wears off.
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As an TV viewer who downloads or watch on demand on websites like Netflix, since I don't live in the US, I know I really like to watch several episodes following each others. Maybe not a full season at once but at least a few episodes.
When it comes to most of the shows I follow "in season", I often let go a few weeks, or a half season before catching up on it all at once.
I have to say I dislike the fact that to catch what comes next of a show you follow, you're expected to be in front of your TV at a particular time and date. Time difference, my schedule, and being a social being, don't go well with that and even if it did I wouldn't want to do it.
Anyway, for me, watching a tv-show is usually watching blocks of episodes at once.

I'm interested to see what this will do to the industry, and if it'll work. I don't know the reality of people's viewing habits, I just know mine so... we shall see!
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I agree---between work, family, and other the other activities of life, my schedule is often to full at a particular time to watch tv at the network's predetermined time. I love marathoning over the weekend or watching several episodes back to back very late at night/early a.m. I fit tv show viewing to my schedule rather then fit my schedule to theirs.
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Marathoning is always nice but the only real piece of information i feel the need to add to this article is how, in my own experience, i've noticed that tv shows i watch in just a day or even a week, even those that i REALLY enjoy, are no longer in my thoughts the next month. All the others, on the other hand, are with me EVERY DAY for 8 months a year or more, with a new episode airing every week, and the promos for the next one, and the sneak peeks, the interviews, the spoilers and the reviews, the webclips and the discussions with my friends about every single detail of every single episode, so i guess i get attached in a different way. The only exception for me has been Harper's Island. Watched it in 5 days. Instant favorite.
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If the first season is good, viewers will be eager to watch season 2 and that might help Netflix the company make money provided they do not provide free trial for season 2.

I am not from the US and over here, we sometimes get 1 episode free for you to test if you like the series and then have to sign up to watch the whole season. I must say Homeland was successful in getting me hook this way. I watched the 1st episode for free and was hook ever since.
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I'm excited. Not so much for the show itself, but excited to see how it can fundamentally change the industry over a very short time.
That said, I'll be watching the eps in small blocks over a month or longer. I like marathoning as much as the next person, but I find when I view an entire season all at once, by the time the next season rolls around, I've forgotten most of what I've watched. It's like eating too fast...you can't appreciate the taste properly & less time chewing on it interferes with digestion.
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Even if you don't marathon a show, the time between seasons is so long and there are so many other shows to watch, it's hard to remember the intricate details of the prior season or even the basic details sometimes:)

If there is any prolonged wait (more then a few weeks) I often forget the subtle details and have to read a synopsis or re-watch the last episode of the prior season...or something

maybe I have a crappy memory for plots!
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There is no better way to watch some shows than by the whole season. I've watched a lot of shows that way and been briefly really excited by them. It could really benefit Netflix in terms of perceived quality.

However, there is a lot of word of mouth and free press when the world has all that time to talk between episodes, so people may not tell anyone else how great it is even if they think it. Also, anticipation breeds desire, and they are missing a dozen chances for anticipation to turn into show-lust.

I, for one, am over Netflix, who needs to worry more about becoming Hulu than HBO, so I won't be watching at all.
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If this takes hold, I wonder if shows will start being made differently. We've already seen some HBO shows go for the novelistic approach. I'm curious to see how that plays out here.
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