/ Technology

Why wait for TV episodes? Why not release them all at once?

US fans of the cult sitcom Arrested Development are rejoicing – all ten episodes of the fourth series are being released at once on Netflix in the States. Does this reflect new ways of consuming TV?

If, like me, you’ve been missing the Bluth family since the show was cancelled back in 2006, then this may make you envious of US viewers, who will get to see the new series all in one go.

But even those who haven’t seen the show will still understand the feeling of waiting a whole week until the new episode of your favourite programme comes out. So the way the new series of Arrested Development is being released is certainly a novel approach.

Ten new episodes, all available at once on Netflix. No waiting from one week to the next. A clever trick (sorry, I mean an illusion) from a show that’s never been conventional, or a reflection of our changing habits?

On the next Arrested Development…

Would I watch all 10 episodes in one sitting? Well, perhaps not, but I could happily knock back two or three in a row, as I always have since first watching Arrested Development on DVD.

In fact, this is just one of many shows that I couldn’t imagine waiting from one week to the next to watch. Arrested Development was a disaster of bad scheduling and shoddy promotion, and the show barely made a dent with audiences on ‘regular’ TV. However, it became a cult favourite on DVD, which had the added luxury of no adverts and back-to back viewing potential.

Perhaps in releasing the new series all at once onto Netflix’s streaming service, the makers of Arrested Development are simply acknowledging the way the show’s fans watched its previous seasons, and are giving them more of the same.

One episode per week?

But is the entire concept of watching one episode per week outdated these days? I’ve been watching, and largely enjoying, Homeland on Channel 4, but I’m at the end of my tether with the endless advert breaks and the interminable wait from one episode to the next.

The rapid growth of smart TV services, where you can instantly stream episodes or even entire series in one go, ought to have traditional TV broadcasters trembling. But what will audiences think?

Would you miss waiting for ‘this week’s episode’, or chatting to your friends and colleagues excitedly about ‘last night’s episode’? Or would you rather have the boxset or digital download ready and waiting to watch at your own leisure?

And in this modern age of digital downloads and file-sharing, is it a wise move at all to debut a new show exclusively in the USA when there are international audiences keen to snap it up, and perhaps tempted to track it down illegally rather than waiting for the boxset to appear?


As much as this is a good idea, what’s wrong with waiting – doesn’t it build suspense?

Since the show was shown on BBC2 over here, ads weren’t a problem.

I think the reason we like to watch something several episodes at a time is we’re all being over-advertised into wanting everything at once. Does anyone else remember a time when people weren’t stupid enough to queue for days in order to be one of the first couple of thousand to own the latest i-wotsits?