Is Netflix’s Full Season Release Strategy a Smart Business Model?

We think it’s worth a shot…but what do we know?


by Peter Sciretta

At the end of last week I got into a twitter debate with producer Dana Brunetti (The Social Network, 21, Fifty Shades of Grey). Dana, executive producer on the new David Fincher-produced/directed tv series House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey, began tweeting about how he didn’t understand how some people didn’t get Netflix’s decision to release the entire season onto their streaming service all at once.

I understand it, and I get why Netflix thinks this is the way things should be. Netflix has ton of television programing available, and their users binge watch seasons in the matter of days. They have the stats to prove this. Why change whats been working for them? Why not challenge the status quo of releasing an episode a week with an original series?

I’m all about challenging the way things are done… but does it make sense?

So I responded to Dana and our back and fourth debate has now been chronicled byMentorless and other sites. I thought it might be worth exploring further in a format that allowed me more than 140 characters.

Lets start out by establishing a few things about myself, so that you’ll understand where I’m coming from:

  • I’m not luddite. I’m a huge tech geek I started my first website when I was in middle school. I’m usually an early adopter, one of the first of anyone I know to go out and try a new technology, device or service.
  • I consume most content through time shifting. I rarely watch live television or click through the channels, as most of my televised entertainment is either VOD, on Demand, or DVRed.
  • I am an entrepreneur with a mind for business. As I stated above, I started my first website while I was in middle school and was making $1,000 a week during the dot com boom while my friends were working at the mall for minimum wage.  I’ve consulted with major companies about marketing campaigns.
  • I am friendly with Dana – I consider Dana a friend. We’re both geeks — we even camped out in line together for an iPad release. While the debate could have read as heated at moments, it was more as two friends taking fun jabs at each other.

Releasing all 13 episodes of the David Fincher-directed/produced House of Cardstelevision series at the same time makes little sense to me from a business standpoint.

  • When HBO or Showtime have an original tv series, they spread it out weekly over the course of three or fourth months, keeping subscribers on board until the finale. By releasing the entire season at once on Netflix, people could subscribe for a month, binge watch, and then cancel their subscriptions.
  • I know people who subscribe to HBO for Game of Thrones and cancel when the season ends. On the other hand, I don’t know anyone who waits until the end of the season, subscribes to HBO for one month to on demand binge watch the season before canceling.
  • By releasing the entire season online at once, you miss out on the regular social buzz build-up that comes from a weekly series. Not only that, but you miss out on the coverage by newspapers and tv blogs who not only recap each episode weekly, but post tv spots, speculation, and discussion between each show. Dana pointed out that #HouseOfCards was trending on twitter today, but will it be trending next week? Or the week after? Or in week 5? Shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men trend highly every week they air, and the social buzz gets people to watch.

Read it all