There are a number of ways that Netflix is upending the traditional approach to original TV programming, but perhaps its most radical move has been its decision to release entire seasons at once rather than the weekly drip-drip-drip airing of episodes that’s the norm for the rest of the TV industry. Recognizing that we have become a binge-watching culture, Netflix understands the marketing value of allowing a consumer to soak up a bunch of programming at once so that he or she can then go on to evangelize the series to other would-be fans. So why is Amazon eschewing this same strategy with its own original programming?
Unlike Netflix Instant users, Amazon Prime subscribers do not get every episode of Amazon’s original shows all at once. Their pilots are made and then crowdsourced; they move forward with the most popular ones once users have seen them.
Although this is a direct approach of gaging reactions, things get a lot more complicated from there.
Once users have selected the worthy pilots, Amazon commissions a whole season. Then, they make the first three episodes available to anyone with a compatible device, and make the rest available exclusively to Amazon Prime members. However, even Prime users have to wait to watch every episode, since after the first three, they release the rest one week at a time.
Confused yet? You’re not the only one.
At NPR, Eric Deggans recalls seeing John Goodman on The Daily Show to promote Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau’s Alpha House. “That strategy doesn’t seem likely to feed binge-viewing appetites the way Netflix does,” Deggans said. “Alpha House seems more like a well-crafted perk for those who already subscribe to the Amazon Prime service.”
Even the show’s stars don’t necessarily understand how the process works, as Goodman revealed during a recent stop by The Daily Show. “I don’t know,” Goodman said sheepishly, when host Jon Stewart asked how to see the show. “I’m selling their product…I’m just a cog in their machine of world domination.”