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How NBC Will Move Forward After Its Binge-Watching Experiment

While it’s possibly true that many network execs wish that they had the success rate of the streaming giant Netflix, that doesn’t mean they want to mimic the way the company has built its empire. NBC recently tried giving viewers the option to binge with one of its latest dramas, the David Duchovny-starring Aquarius, but barely anyone bit, and now the network will once again be distancing itself from that release model.

While certainly an ambitious decision for a network that generally relies on week-to-week viewership for its series’ success, putting Aquarius out all at once created far more of a whimper than a bang. NBC’s head of entertainment Bob Greenblatt said at the TCA press event that the network will “probably” not go the same route with the already ordered Season 2 of the Charles Manson-infused drama. Furthermore, they will likely not produce all of the episodes ahead of time, as they did for Season 1, which is generally how it goes for standard network series. (He also said some affiliates were displeased by the online release.)

According to Reuters, Greenblatt went on to say that the binge model “is not going to become standard practice for the network,” which is understandable. But he’s not ruling it out entirely, saying that they may look to do it again for “the occasional show.” That would have been a good way for them to get Hannibal out there to fans, rather than just canceling it and shoving it on Saturday nights. Yes, I still have that chip on my shoulder.

NBC’s decision comes down to numbers, of course. According to the stats, Aquarius’ limited availability for binge-watching (through the network’s website and Hulu) was only utilized by 6% of the series’ entire audience, which obviously means that a whopping 94% of viewers chose to go the normal route when partaking. There’s no way I would have guessed that those results would be so one-sided. But there’s a decent enough reason. The median age for that 6% of online viewers was 35, which skews far younger than the age of the average NBC viewer, which is about 15 years older. So while I’m sure NBC would like to get a slew of younger viewers watching their shows, they’d do best to continue appeasing the already established core audience.

This isn’t the first time in recent weeks that we’ve seen an entertainment hub back away from putting things out for crowds to binge on. After releasing just the first two episodes of the superb comedy Difficult People last week, Hulu announced that it would no longer offer up entire seasons of its original shows at once, and would instead go the week-to-week route for future series. Hell, even Netflix put the sci-fi-tinged drama Between out once a week, although it has yet to repeat that tactic.

Meanwhile, NBC is currently working on building its comedy slate and putting together live musicals. And you can catch the Season 1 finale of Aquarius on Saturday, August 22.

Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.