Following the recent announcement that Amazon had set the premiere dates for their new original comedies Alpha House and Betas, we were left to wonder about the way Amazon was planning to roll out these new comedies. They’re not taking the Netflix approach to premiering their entire seasons all at once, nor are they quite going the network television route in releasing one episode at a time. At least, not entirely. The first three episodes of each show will debut on Amazon Instant Video later this month, which means they’ll be available free to all Amazon customers, regardless of whether or not they have a Prime subscription. After that, one new episode will debut each week to Amazon Prime members. Amazon Studios director Roy Price explained their decision this week at an Academy of Television Arts & Sciences event, and while it kind of makes sense, though it doesn’t make me like the decision any more.
THR says Price expressed concern about people being able to talk with one another about the show if they released all of the episodes at once, as it means people would be at different points in the season at different times.
"I don't know if you've seen four episodes and I've seen six … I can't really say anything except 'I like the show.' It's a little bit of a problem. And it kind of takes away one of the fun things about a TV show, which is saying, 'Hey did you see that?' and 'What do you think is going to happen with blah blah blah?' “
He elaborates with the argument that social media discussion centered on binge-watched shows drops more drastically over time by comparison to shows that air week to week. So their choice to air a release episodes together and then go week-to-week after that was meeting somewhere in the middle and they’re seeing how it goes.
I actually think releasing three episodes at once is a great idea, and something I’d love to see network or cable try out with new series. It’s so hard to judge a TV show by its first episode — especially if the pilot was produced months before the episodes that follows. Getting to watch three episodes back to back (or spaced out if the viewer so chooses) offers a much better sampling of what the series is beyond its premise. But the one-episode-at-a-time thing that follows in Amazon's plan doesn’t sit as well with me, and why should it? How do I, as a viewer, benefit from having no choice but to wait each week for the next new episode? I don’t, really. It’s to Amazon’s benefit to try to control how viewers’ watch — and just as importantly, talk about — their shows.
As Netflix isn’t exactly generous with their viewing data, it’s hard to say how successful their all-at-once strategy is going, but one thing is clear, people like their shows. House of Cards earned itself nine Emmy nominations, while Orange is the New Black has become one of the more buzz worthy new series this year. People might have to tread carefully when it comes to talking about the shows, as not everyone is caught up, but that pretty much applies to all TV doesn’t it? Between DVRs and people who are waiting for Netflix/On Demand/DVD to get caught up on their shows, avoiding spoilers is like tiptoeing through a virtual minefield these days, and talking about them is just as tricky.
That said, Amazon has their data and they’re acting accordingly. We can’t fault them for that. In the end, people will watch how they’re going to watch anyway, as there’s always the option to wait until the first seasons of Betas and Alpha House wrap up and binge-watch to your heart’s content.
Alpha House premieres November 15, while Betas debuts November 22 on Amazon.com (and Amazon Instant Video compatible devices).