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Netflix explains why it releases episodes of its hit shows all at once

Netflix Binge Watching

In the dark days before Netflix, TV fans had to patiently wait for new episodes of their favorite shows to air on a per week basis. Once Netflix became obsessed with churning out its own original content, it completely turned the traditional notion of TV viewing on its head. Rather than releasing episodes on a weekly basis, Netflix opted to release entire seasons of new shows in one fell swoop, ultimately resulting in the creation of the phrase ‘binge watching.’

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In what seemed like an instant, ‘binge watching’ transitioned into a phrase used casually in everyday conversation.

“What’d you do over the weekend?”

“Not too much, just binge watched Making a Murderer and season 7 of Dexter.”

Though Netflix itself didn’t create the term, the streaming giant was quick to embrace it despite some initial reservations. As Netflix VP of Product Todd Yellin explains, the company was, ever so briefly, concerned that the phrasing didn’t sound very healthy or fun.

But once ‘binge watching’ began to pick up steam as a popular saying, there was no stopping it, and Netflix hopped on board the bandwagon.

Now given that premium channels like HBO and Showtime still release their hit shows on a week to week basis, it’s not unreasonable to wonder why Netflix remains committed to releasing entire seasons of its original productions all at once. Tackling this question head on, Yellin recently explained why the company believes it’s business model empowers TV viewers and, in turn, delivers a more enjoyable user experience.

To us, binging is really about consumer control. It’s not about someone telling you that you only get one hour a week, and we’re going to slowly parse out the story you’re enjoying… “Hold on! All scenes from next week. Tune in next Sunday at 8 o’clock!” … It’s not about that. It’s about giving the control back to the consumer – “Here’s the whole story, now watch as much as you want.”

It’s been I think 170- years since anyone published a book where they go, “We’re only giving you one chapter, next week we’re giving you the next chapter.” They give you the whole book!

And that’s the way TV should be. Give me the whole friggin’ story and then I can watch as much or as little as I want.

Interestingly, Yellin added that just a small percentage of users actually binge watch entire seasons of a show the moment it goes live. Rather, most Netflix viewers watch about 2-3 episodes in an evening and perhaps a bit more on the weekends.

You can check out Yellin’s full take on binge watching below.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.