TBS wades into binge-watching

Binge-watching has become the new normal.

TBS is the latest linear broadcaster to try its hand at the model. The Turner network is airing the entire season of its new police satire “Angie Tribeca” five consecutive times starting at 9 p.m. on Sunday, January 17. The 25-hour marathon, which will air without commercial breaks, will also be available online, on the TBS app and on-demand. It’s also recruited the cast of “Angie Tribeca,” stars of other TBS shows and other celebrities to host the five-hour block.

“You saw how everyone was obsessed with [Netflix’s] ‘Making a Murderer,'” said Brett Weitz, evp of original programming at TBS.  “People are bingeing to such a degree it’s starting to make the once-a-week format a little obsolete.”

There’s little doubt bingeing on content is a cultural phenomenon. A 2015 Deloitte survey found 68 percent of respondents watched three episodes or more at a single sitting, and 31 percent doing so at least once a week.

TBS still plans to air the first season weekly, starting Monday, January 25.

“In a world of hundreds of channels, you have to find ways to stand out. What we want to do is make some noise, but at the same time not be unfair to people who don’t want to watch it all in one day,” said Weitz.

Other networks have experimented with mixed release strategies. NBC released all 13 episodes of its David Duchovny-starring summer drama “Aquarius” on NBC.com, its NBC app and video on-demand the same night the show made its TV premiere.

In the first month after its May 28 premiere, “Aquarius” was the second-most watched drama premiere on NBC.com and the NBC app, according to the network, which cited it as a reason for ordering a second season. And yet, following a broadcast premiere that grabbed 5.7 million viewers, viewership for “Aquarius” plummeted to 1.1 million for the season finale, prompting many to wonder how much the digital bingeing affected TV viewership.

“Ultimately, like with anything else, great content will cut through the clutter and win,” said David Caruso, COO of United Entertainment Group. “But great content needs to be coupled with a smart distribution model that takes into account all the ways people are watching.”

TBS thinks it has a great show in its hands (it’s already ordered a second season, which will air later this year). The network hopes the eye-opening nature of the launch makes it an event worth tuning into.

“We want people to think, ‘If they love it so much that they’re doing this audacious thing, I have to check it out,'” said Weitz. “This is how you break through the clutter in 2016.”


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