If you needed further evidence of just how addicted some people are to bingeing, look no further.
In recent days, Netflix subscribers have been freaking out on social media in response to a false rumor that the streaming service — which drove the whole mass bingeing dynamic with its practice of releasing full seasons of series at once — is poised to switch to a model of releasing episodes on a weekly basis.
The rumor may have started through a Sept. 2 piece on Comicbook.com, which pointed out that episodes of “The Great British Baking Show” are being released on a weekly basis in the U.S.
It also noted that, rather than release all episodes at once, Netflix is releasing four audition episodes of the new rap competition series “Rhythm + Flow” on Oct. 9, episodes 5 through 7 on Oct. 16, and the last three on Oct. 23, the series’s wrap date.
“There were a couple of early experiments with the [by-episode] release model, but Netflix has mostly stuck to the idea of binging,” Comicbook.com wrote. “Well, that's about to change for a couple of shows as the streaming service is looking back into weekly releases.”
Some readers apparently read that as a harbinger of a full-scale transition, and that assumption was quickly picked up by other outlets. Netflix binge watchers then began passionately posting that the ability to binge is the main or only reason that they pay for Netflix, questioning why companies mess with successful practices, and threatening to cancel their subscriptions.
Netflix soon tweeted out an explanation: Releasing episodes weekly of “The Great British Baking Show” isn’t new; the service is trying “something new” with “Hustle & Flow” only to try to keep the winner a surprise; and by-episode releases won’t be happening with shows beyond those two.
It turns out that in the U.K., episodes of “The Great British Baking Show” and other licensed series (including “Breaking Bad” and “The Good Place”) have long been released one at a time, after they air in the United States. For the U.K.-originated reality baking show, the scenario has simply been flipped, with each episode released in the U.S. after it airs in the U.K.
It indeed seems unlikely that Netflix would abandon or significantly change the binge-release model that helped it become by far the largest SVOD streamer.
But rumors and speculation that the platform will begin taking advertising have also been persistent — not only because its subscriber growth rate has slowed a bit, but because Netflix will soon be competing with new entries from the likes of Disney and Apple.
Disney-controlled Hulu already releases major shows one episode at a time, and Disney+ — coming Nov. 12 and available in a $12.99 bundle with Hulu and ESPN+, as well as on its own for $6.99 — will also reportedly release original series episodes individually. HBO Now uses the one-episode-per-week model, and it appears that Apple TV+ (also coming in November) will do likewise.
As Fierce Video points out, unlike Netflix, the single-episode release model might help new challengers grow their subscriber numbers more quickly, by reducing churn.