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Why Netflix’s status means Stranger Things doesn’t need weekly drop

Netflix has committed to the binge model for Stranger Things season 5 and RadioTimes.com investigated why.

The cast of Stranger Things season 4
Netflix
Published: Monday, 4th July 2022 at 3:33 pm
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Stranger Things has just released the second and final volume in its fourth, penultimate season, and it remains what is becoming somewhat of a rarity – an enormous streaming show which releases most of its episodes at once, rather than in a weekly model.

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Recently Netflix's competitors have been releasing their shows weekly, including Disney Plus with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ms Marvel, and Amazon Prime Video with The Boys.

Yet Netflix remains committed to the binge model, with its head of scripted series for the US and Canada, Peter Friedlander, recently telling Variety that the fifth and final season would not be released weekly, because "for the fans of Stranger Things, this is how they’ve been watching that show, and I think to change that on them would be disappointing."

Considering this, RadioTimes.com spoke exclusively with Tom Harrington, TV Analyst from Enders Analysis, an independent research company looking at the creative industries, the broadcast economy and digital exploitation models, to find out why this decision might have been made, and what the advantages and disadvantages of the two streaming models could be.

Will, Jonathan, Mike and Argyle in Stranger Things season 4.
Will, Jonathan, Mike and Argyle in Stranger Things season 4 Netflix

Harrington suggested this is in part because of Netflix's status as most people's primary service, meaning the streamer doesn't need to attract viewers back to the platform each week in the same way others do.

He said: "The advantage of having something weekly is that people then come back to the service weekly. For Disney Plus or Amazon, which are probably no one's primary services, people may well be going back to that service just for that one show. So, if there's 10 episodes, they have to come back at least 10 times, and each time they log in they see what's new and get bombarded with stuff that is given prominence.

"Netflix, generally, is probably still the primary service. People are probably going in there every day anyway and seeing what's new and know what there is to watch. The effect of weekly episodes is arguably slightly less for Netflix, because people are logging in anyway."

He said it's all about creating "rhythms" around TV viewing.

"It’s very important where the first port of call is on your viewing journey," Harrington continued. "When you turn on the TV, where do you start? Because where you start is in a very powerful position, because if that streamer can give you something which you want to watch then you’re not going anywhere else.

"Netflix is in that enviable position where, for many people, it's probably where they start their viewing journey. So if they're going to be there anyway, maybe it’s best to give the people what they want: a big chunk [of episodes]."

David Harbour as Jim Hopper in Stranger Things season 4
David Harbour as Jim Hopper in Stranger Things season 4 Netflix

Elsewhere, Harrington also talked about Stranger Things' position as one of Netflix's most popular properties ever, calling it "probably the only Netflix Original which is part of the Zeitgeist".

He said: "It's an actual, bonafide, big success TV show. In the past, the press coverage around Netflix shows had been disproportionate compared with the amount of actual viewing. It’s this Mad Men paradox – there’s probably been as many articles about Mad Men as actual people that ever watched it.

"The same was true with the big early streaming shows, but in the US, Stranger Things is one of the biggest shows on TV, and similarly here. So what should Netflix have done? Does it want to stretch the show out as long as they can for nine weeks?

"What it's done is meet somewhere in the middle. They’ve met some of the expectations of fans, who are used to getting shows all at once, but by releasing a couple more episodes five weeks later, it means viewers have to get at least two months-worth of subscriptions.

"And Netflix has been criticised about it, with people saying: 'Well it’s the biggest show, they know millions and millions of people are going to watch it whether it’s good or not, because it's a bonafide hit, so they should have stretched it out as long as they could.' But at the same time, you have to give people what they want and they don't want to annoy the subscribers, especially right now."

Earlier this year the number of people subscribing to Netflix's service dropped for the first time in more than 10 years, with the streamer projecting that it will lose two million subscribers in the current quarter.

In response, the company increased subscription prices and has announced it will be launching a new ad-supported tier. However, one thing that currently looks set to stay is the binge model.

Stranger Things seasons 1-4 are now streaming on Netflix in full.

Check out our guides to the best series on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.

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