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Netflix: Reed Hastings Missed on 'Binge Viewing'

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Netflix (NFLX - Get Report) CEO Reed Hastings feeds the media lots of lines. Because there's no doubt the guy is part visionary; quite a few do a considerable bit to inform the conversation vis-a-vis the future of television. Others, particularly the ones that situate Netflix as a taken-for-granted part of that future, distort reality.

There's the shucks, jives, flips, flop, contradictions, backtracks and abrupt strategy shifts we can debate till we're blue. Then there are gaffes disguised as and portrayed by Hastings as some special manifestation of his self-promoted genius.

Reed coins the term "binge viewing" and the media swallows it up without any critical reflection whatsoever. That's par for the course in the steamy love affair most scribes, talking heads and Wall Street analysts have with Hastings' rhetoric.


However, at his blog, Jason Moser doesn't fall hook, line and sinker in love. He approaches the notion of binge viewing with a perceptive take:

Here's the thing: binge-viewing does work...for some shows. Older shows that have already been around the block are perfect for binge-viewing if that's your thing. But if Netflix's strategy is to develop more original content in order to differentiate themselves (and I agree with this move...they need to do something because they are becoming less and less special every day given the competition that's growing out there), they are going to need to think about stretching out the lives of these things.
House of Cards is a good example ... Nobody's talking about it anymore. Anywhere. Viewers are going to have to wait until like next March to see new episodes. That takes the entire life out of the show as far as I can see it ...
Now an example on the other end of the spectrum: Game of Thrones (or we can go with Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, American Horror Story, Boardwalk Empire, Downton Abbey, you get my point). These shows are living long and healthy lives as linear shows on a weekly schedule. Of course you can binge-view older seasons. You can also just wait for the stuff to eventually come out on Netflix or Amazon Prime or iTunes. But Game of Thrones et al are shows that I would argue actually benefit from the linear schedule. It gives them (hence their developers) longer lives; it keeps people interested and in tune longer. People talk about these shows every week in my office. House of Cards not so much.


This infographic (click on it once to make it larger after it loads) supports Moser's point.

Anyway, I liked Moser's take enough to expose it to a wider audience. Still, it's peripheral ... even if House of Cards received weekly buzz for a few months, it doesn't address Netflix's core problems.

On another note, I have been digging through HBO's ratings. Millions of people watch Game of Thrones each week via multiple platforms. Does Netflix report how many people watch its originals?

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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