Weekly streaming releases can help reduce subscriber churn, study shows

By MixDex Article may include affiliate links

One of the biggest challenges for streaming services is churn — a subscription industry term for the number of people who cancel vs. those who stick around each renewal period.

One way that some streamers, particularly ones with smaller content libraries, are finding that not dropping an entire season of a show at once can be a good way to reduce churn and increase buzz and engagement, according to an Ampere Analysis report.

Netflix is perhaps most famous for introducing the model of dropping entire seasons at once, which, in turn, triggered the phenomenon known as “binging” a series.

While the approach of dropping all episodes at once is still largely copied, streaming video on demand services including HBO Max, IMDb TV and Apple TV+ have all broken that mold.

IMDb TV, which is owned by Amazon and is a free ad supported streamer, released “Judy Justice” on a daily schedule, for example. Apple TV+ and HBO Max have used weekly drops for shows.

In some cases, a streamer may release the first few episodes in a single drop, likely to spur engagement and buy in, but then switch to a weekly schedule.

In a variation of this, some streaming services release programs a weekly earlier than their linear TV airdate on the streaming platform. AMC+ has tried this with “Kevin Can F*ck Himself” and Peacock tried it with “Below Deck Med.”

Peacock is also switching to a weekly release schedule for its upcoming streaming only show “Below Deck Down Under” after the first three episodes drop at once on March 17, 2022.

Streamers will smaller content libraries can also leverage weekly releases to increase the perceived value of the service, according to Ampere.

On the surface, it makes a lot of sense to spread out releases over time since that, by extension, means viewers have to pay beyond any free trials and, in some cases, even pay for multiple months.

For example, Disney+ released episodes of new Marvel Cinematic Universe TV shows across 34 weeks in 2021. A fan of Marvel content wanting to avoid the plotlines being spoiled would have to subscribe to Disney+ for the majority of the year to watch each episode at the earliest opportunity.

There will, however, always be viewers content to wait and sign up for a free trial or short paid subscription to binge a show and then cancel.

“A weekly release pattern more easily facilitates conversation around a show. Between episodes, viewers have ample time to discuss and re-watch episodes, which is less likely to be the case if an entire season is released together,” said Ampere Senior Analyst Rahul Patel in a statement.

This means weekly releases can lessen the chance of engagement with a show decaying rapidly after its initial release.

“By extension, weekly releases can benefit lower profile titles — particularly those not based on recognizable intellectual property with positive word of mouth sentiment has more time to build and spread,” Patel added.

Releasing all of the season at once risks the title being “crowded out” in the increasingly competitive streaming market.

Ampere’s data shows engagement with a TV show decays faster for full-season releases when indexed against their popularity at launch.

Specifically, comparing top Netflix (full season releases) and HBO (weekly releases) shows, the popularity of the former dropped to 80% of the premiere month within one month of release compared to four months for the latter.

Ampere’s experts believe this is a sign that weekly releases help ensure longevity in engagement more than a full season release would for the same content.

All that said, Ampere does note that this trend could be temporary. This could be, at least in part, due to the constantly evolving nature of the streaming market and fickleness of viewers. It also largely depends on streamers releasing original content that viewers want to watch — and that’s likely to trend on social media.

Pricing could also play a factor, something that’s always a delicate balancing act for content companies who are facing rising costs and demanding shareholders but price sensitive consumers who are increasingly finding themselves having to subscribe to more and more services to get the content they want.