Why Netflix Started Using The 13-Episode Season Structure

Daredevil Matt Murdock Charlie Cox
(Image credit: Patrick Habron/Netflix)

One of the reasons it is so easy to binge-watch an entire season of a Netflix series is because they are pretty short compared to network television's. Some shows on Netflix clock in at 13 episodes, like Marvel's Daredevil. That puts a Netflix series' episode count at a little over half that of a network series, which usually comes in around 22 episodes. Have you ever wondered why Netflix settled on 13 episodes, though? Well, Cindy Holland, the VP of Netflix's original content, explained, and said:

In some of the earlier negotiations and deals that we did with third-party studios, we were sort of hamstrung a little bit by the convention of the 13-episode cable series pattern. And if you look at the content that we've been making out of Netflix Studios and even with third-party partners now, often the seasons are generally no more than 10 episodes.

Yesterday, we heard from Netflix regarding why it decided to save Lucifer, and now we have learned how the streaming platform's 13-episode season structure started. Cindy Holland's comments at the TCA summer press tour, per IGN, were in response to questions regarding the pacing of some Netflix's series. The three episode trim she references at the end of her comment has helped certain series stay on course. The question now becomes why 10 has become the new 13, regarding episode count.

Game of Thrones' first six seasons were comprised of ten episodes. That number dwindled in the final two seasons due to efforts to tell a more concise story, although some have expressed concern that the show is packing too much into too little time. It is a tough tightrope to walk. For its part, the freshman season of Netflix's dark thriller Ozark bowed with an intensely packed 10-episode season that satiated. When it comes to Netflix giving creators the freedom to figure out how to structure a season, Cindy Holland had this to say:

I think to a large extent, it's up to the creator and the pace that they are creating intentionally for their characters.

While Netflix's original Marvel series have usually consisted of 13 episodes, The Defenders had eight. This seems to be a sign that the writers were taking the time they actually needed to tell the story into consideration, which is excellent. Because, let's face it, there is nothing worse as a binge watcher than realizing you have hit the season's "filler" episodes.

Sometimes a story merits ten episodes, and other times a story might only merit five episodes. What is getting lost in all of this, though, is when a network show is able to pack a 22-episode season and satisfy viewers throughout. With Netflix fans waiting a year (or more) to watch 10 to 13-episode seasons, when they only wait a summer for the beginning of 22 episodes on network TV, that is quite a viewing change. Thankfully, Netflix is giving them content worth waiting for.

For new television content set to premiere on Netflix this year, check out our 2018 Netflix premiere rundown. Our guide to Amazon Prime's premiere schedule is available to peruse next. For new television shows set to arrive this fall, check out CinemaBlend's guide to TV's fall premieres.

Britt Lawrence

Like a contented Hallmark movie character, Britt happily lives in the same city she grew up in. Along with movies and television, she is passionate about competitive figure skating. She has been writing about entertainment for 5 years, and as you may suspect, still finds it as entertaining to do as when she began.