In case, somehow, you missed it: The Walt Disney Company, after buying 20th Century Fox, gaining a controlling stake in Hulu, and almost singlehandedly propping up the theatrical exhibition business via their veritable home-run derby of brand-driven blockbusters, will be launching their own streaming platform in November. Called Disney+, it will be the exclusive home of a giant library of catalog material (including the entirety of The Simpsons), and a whole mess o' new content, like Marvel Cinematic Universe spin-offs and lead-ins, Star Wars spin-offs, sequels, and prequels, the return of Lizzie McGuire, and this thing where someone turns a camera on, points it at Jeff Goldblum, and he Goldblums around for a few hours.
The pricing for this platform is extremely competitive at $7 a month, vs. Netflix's $13 per month standard plan. (And that price drops to under $4 a month if you've taken advantage of their fan club exclusive offer—with the catch that you have to pay for three years up-front.) The number of launch titles won't be as expansive as Netflix's current library (three-quarters of which nobody on Earth gives a solitary fuck about, but it seems comforting to know it's all there [for now] as you scroll past it, in hopes of finding that one new release they've inexplicably buried somewhere in a sub-genre's menu instead of plastering it on the landing page like it should be JESUS why do they do that so often), but Disney+ won't make you pay extra for high-definition streaming, and they'll allow you to download whatever you want for as long as you're subscribed, in case you want to watch something without an internet connection.
The one thing they won't do? Let you binge a new show.
There are solid business reasons for this, the biggest and most sensible being that it makes it harder for subscribers to only sign up for one month—or even use a service's month-long free trial period—watch everything they want to watch, and then drop the service. That's trickier to do when most new shows will take at least two months two wrap up. You can almost hear Disney CEO Bob Iger whispering to you as you check your calendars, trying Venn diagram a month-long subscription with your desired show's conclusion:
"Friend, why not just pay the low cost we're asking you to pay? We even have a bundle that throws in Hulu and ESPN+ for basically the same cost as a Netflix subscription! Now, let's remember the days when The Simpsons was still good, together, while you're waiting for Loki to drop!"
It's a smart way to keep subscriber numbers solid during the early days of the platform, and to keep adding to those numbers as more shows are rolled out—and Disney+ has so many shows that the company literally spent an entire weekend throwing itself a marketing expo to show off those show's logos.
Full disclosure: I'm inclined to believe it's a very smart ploy because it's the ploy that suckered me into joining their free fan club and buying into Disney+ at the buy-two-years-get-the-third-year-free tier.
There are also less-than-solid reasons for this anti-binge stance, particularly one that culture bloggers are seizing on as being Disney's real genius on display. The argument is best summed up in this piece by Collider's Adam Chitwood, and so I'll just use him as the object example/convenient rhetorical stand-in:
If you have the time to watch all of Stranger Things 3 in its first weekend of release, great! But odds are not all of your friends will, and the result is that when you really wanna talk about that Neverending Story moment, you may find yourself alone, forced to keep quiet and waiting on your friends to catch up... Disney+ is ensuring that the conversation surrounding these new shows will (hopefully) be louder, larger, and more long-lasting. Just compare Stranger Things 3 to Game of Thrones. With the former, you couldn’t really get into spoilers until your friends/family had the time to watch all eight episodes. But with Game of Thrones, most fans found time either Sunday night or Monday to watch the latest episode, which meant you had a full six days to argue over plot points, marvel at the production value, and speculate on what’s to come with your friends. It was fun and, most importantly, communal... as someone who pines for the days when we could hit the internet after each episode of LOST and speculate wildly... I am very much in favor of Disney+ releasing episodes weekly. (Via)
Here's why this fucking sucks: Part of what I'm paying Netflix for is the flexibility to watch what I want, when I want, how I want it. The reason "binging" took off is because people like it. It's not just a nice bonus to cord-cutting, it's a huge reason for subscribing to a streaming platform in the first place. The freedom to experience a show at my own pace and to enjoy it the way I want to enjoy it is very appealing, and—now that I'm used to it—it's something I'm loath to let go of. It establishes a stronger connection between me and that entertainment, because I'm making the decision to devote my time and attention to it, as opposed to having to wait for someone else to give it to me—and in the case of broadcast television (and Hulu with ads), to interrupt it constantly with commercials.
Here's the other reason this fucking sucks: I don't watch things primarily to talk about them online. Most people don't. Probably 98 percent of the people watching any given program on Netflix, or Amazon, or Hulu, or Crackle (is Crackle still a thing?) aren't consuming filmed entertainment for the purpose of flying to social media to "speculate wildly on" (and/or "solve/fix") the thing they just watched. They're watching a thing because experiencing it for what it is is enough for them. It's all they want and need from a show. They've never asked themselves the question "What good is watching a show if I can't immediately turn it into content for myself?" They don't have a check coming at the end of the week based on their ability to add monetized commentary to someone else's work.
So if I can't watch a thing the way I want, when I want, as part of the price I paid to access that thing, solely because some nerds (over-) value their ability to cogently bullshit on some subreddit about whatever stupid fucking "theory" they're nursing that week as a substitute for having done anything with their own creative energies? That sucks.
Also, the examples being used seem to prove a different point to me than the one that's ostensibly being made. LOST? Game of Thrones? You mean two of the worst examples of a show's purported fanbase forgetting they're just watching the show, not writing it, and subsequently leading the charge to take the show's kneecaps off once all their theories and "Here's how I woulda done its" leave stubborn streaks all over a network's freshly flushed porcelain? This take depends heavily on romanticizing "communities" built around TV shows, while ignoring those communities are mostly small-scale rat buckets brimming with dullards eating themselves whole and spitting out memes in a fruitless search for external validation.
Maybe Stranger Things 3 didn't lead to similar engagement numbers at your entertainment blog of choice, but it also feels like people enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than the final season of Game of Thrones. Maybe that's due to it's being a better-executed narrative, but maybe it's also due to people choosing to engage with the work as a work, on its own terms, without feeling the compulsion to feed a weekly content churn designed to suck life and happiness out of a popular show in exchange for the chance at a couple hundred people maybe retweeting you to another couple hundred people.
I don't really mind not being able to binge The Mandalorian when Disney+ goes live this November. It's fine. There are plenty of other things to worry about than being accidentally inconsiderate and spoiling a TV show for my nieces at Thanksgiving—although it's really not hard at all to ask "Hey, you seen X yet," just as it isn't any serious conversational hardship to hear, "I haven't seen that yet, no spoilers, please." And I understand Disney's desire to grab as many subscribers as possible and hold onto them for as long as they can, however they can. Again, not only do I understand it, I've already forked over a significant percentage of my own paycheck for a product I can't even access until November! And I'm cool with that.
But if the real reason I'm being denied what I've come to consider a standard streaming feature is so the Ringer or io9 can wring out an extra eight
think pieces thumbsuckers, two podcast episodes, and a YouTube "essay" about High School Musical: The Musical: The Series every week? Fuck that. What a myopic, stupid POV to capitulate to. Most people don't watch shows so they can blog about them (or leave their comment in the gall bladder glued to the bottom of whatever article they just skimmed). They watch them to enjoy them. And if you think those two things aren't mutually exclusive, go ahead and ask those LOST forum vets how they feel about the years they wasted in their personal salt mines before stumbling into the light, still mumbling about fuckin' polar bears. Or, perhaps more appropriately—ask a Star Wars fan (cough, ahem) how "enhanced" their enjoyment of that series became due to decades of time wasted on stupid, pointless online social brawls regarding Rey, or Ewoks, or Jar Jar, or George Lucas' hair, etc. whatever.