Tom's Guide asks: Is it better for a show to have a binge release or weekly release?

Jenna Ortega in Wednesday; Pablo Pascal in Last of Us
(Image credit: Netflix; HBO)

Peak TV may be over, but we still live in an era of abundance when it comes to television. Every week brings new shows to streaming services and old-school broadcast and cable channels. And while they may be of a variety of genres, vibes and quality, they generally arrive in two formats: weekly or binge release. 

The old-school TV model aired one episode a week for months. In the early 2010s, Netflix pioneered the binge release by dropping all episodes of an entire season into our queues. It was a revolutionary move that gave viewers the power to watch at the pace they desired. They could choose to gobble up eight hours in one sitting (with a few bathroom breaks) or dole them out over a few days or even weeks. 

In time, some streamers followed in Netflix's path, but others opted for a weekly release schedule or some kind of hybrid — e.g. a two-episode premiere, followed by one-episode weekly drops. Now, even Netflix has tweaked its own binge formula. Some of their reality shows, like "Love Is Blind," release episodes in batches, and some of their biggest scripted originals, like "Bridgerton" and "Stranger Things," split their seasons into two or three parts. 

Viewers have feelings about all of these different release strategies, with ardent fans of bingeing on one end of the spectrum and stubborn proponents of weekly airings on the other. 

So, I asked members of the Tom's Guide staff: Is it better for a show to have a binge release or weekly release? Here's how they answered.

You can't duplicate the water cooler effect of weekly releases

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Kelly Woo

If you didn't grow up analog like I did, you might not totally get the whole "watercooler effect." Essentially, the morning after an amazing episode airs, everyone in the office gathers together around the water cooler to dissect everything that happened, trade theories and speculate on what's coming next. 

The water cooler effect creates community and heightens the interest and excitement around a show. I remember ye olden times of ruminating on a new mystery on "Lost" with co-workers in our office kitchen. Marveling or bitching about the latest episode of "Game of Thrones." More recently, even though the water cooler has largely moved online to social media or in group chats, I was cackling with friends every Monday about the antics of the deplorable family members on "Succession."

When an entire season drops at once, that kind of minute chatter is impossible. First, everyone consumes it at a different speed. Unless you want to spoil everyone, you have to wait until you know they've watched to a certain point or seen the whole thing. Part of the water cooler effect is its immediacy — the next morning or within 24 hours. Either you're ahead or behind, and by the time everyone is all caught up, the interest and excitement have faded.

I’m a binging brute who will never change

Dave Meikleham
Dave Meikleham

Talk about Beauty and the Binge. Once I hop into a show, I can’t stop. I’m not just talking about obliterating the best Netflix shows for the first time in embarrassingly short order. I’ll happily binge/rewatch five to eight seasons of my favorite shows ever with all the appetite of Bruce the shark making mincemeat out of poor Quint in "Jaws." 

A recent(ish) example? I watched all 60 episodes of "The Wire" last July starting on the first day of the sweltering month and ending on the 31st. For added, unhinged context, I’ve finished David Chase’s masterful Baltimore crime drama at least five times over the past decades. Doing my math on that latest binge, and considering a 31-day month lasts for 744 hours, gluing myself in front of one of the best OLED TVs for precisely 60 hours and 45 minutes during the sunniest day of the year should provide a strong hint on what side of the debate I fall on when it comes to “binging vs weekly releases."

TV shows should be savored not sprinted through

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Rory Mellon

I’ve been banging the drum in favor of weekly releases for years, and I’m not about to stop now. Binge-watching is the worst way to consume a TV show and is antithetical to the medium's biggest strength: delivering a longer story in manageable chunks that can be fully digested before the next installment. Binging a show results in everything blurring together, and the strength of each episode is greatly diminished. Episodes are no longer judged individually but mesh into a homogeneous mix that plays out like an overly long movie.  

The other key benefit of a weekly release is that it builds anticipation, and gives viewers a chance to indulge in the increasingly rare pastime of wildly speculating online. “Lost” is one of my favorite TV shows ever, not just because it’s a corkingly good series, but because I had just as much debating theories with friends IRL and strangers on fan forums (remember those?) as I did actually watching the show itself. However, if “Lost released in today’s TV climate it would be No.1 on Netflix for a week and then forgotten about just days later. 

Entertainment is becoming increasingly disposable as everybody craves the next thing now, and binge releases fed into this problem. Not to mention, the best TV show of the 21st century is HBO’s “Succession” which was released weekly and was better for it. Case closed. 

One episode a week is just not enough

Alix Blackburn
Alix Blackburn

Let me start by saying that I understand the point of a weekly release. People will watch one episode and generate excitement over it online, which is great for marketing. But I’m not, and will never be one of those people due to how impatient I am. A binge release is just convenient — watch all the episodes in one go or watch as many as you like in the week. At least the choice is there. With a weekly release you have no choice at all but to wait, and honestly, I get bored of waiting and end up forgetting about the show completely (except for “Bridgerton” season 3, of course).

So, give me all the episodes straight away and I won’t complain. Even if I don’t have the time or energy to binge-watch the series as soon as it comes out, at least I know every episode is on the platform. Plus, I can get comfy at the weekend with my favorite snacks and watch the show all at once. It’s simple really: one episode a week is just not enough.

I don’t like to binge but I want it all available now

Ryan Morrison
Ryan Morrison

I don’t have a lot of free time and like to do multiple things at the same time to make the most of the few hours a week I’m not working, spending time with my family or studying. This includes writing code while watching the latest episode of "Doctor Who," or catching up on a new episode of "Phoning it In" from the Try Guy's new 2nd Try streaming platform.

The problem is I’m also easily bored and have a bad habit of skipping the boring bits. This includes any tension or action sequences. I can watch a three-hour movie in 45 minutes and still get the gist of it. I am also not a fan of no endings, so I want to know if the season is complete before I start watching the first episode.

Because of this I want my cake and I want to eat it — give me everything now but expect I’ll probably watch an episode or two per week, or at least the best bits of the episode.

I’d rather get my fix all at once

Kaycee Hill
Kaycee Hill

Personally, I’m all about the binge. I simply do not have the patience to wait a whole week for the next episode of a show I’m into. In the era of streaming, waiting for episodes feels so outdated. I vividly remember the frustration of wrapping up an episode of "Supernatural" on a school night, only to face the agonizing seven-day wait for the next one. Those days between episodes felt like an eternity. 

Streaming sites have revolutionized how we consume media and binge-watching is the natural evolution of that. It keeps us engaged, invested and more connected to the narrative. Viewers can follow complex plots and character arcs without forgetting crucial details between episodes. This continuous engagement allows for a more immersive experience, as we become fully absorbed in the show’s universe. 

Plus, it's perfect for those weekends when you just want to switch off and lose yourself in a new world. I’m not fussed about dragging out the suspense, I’d rather get my fix all at once. 

Give me all the episodes right away

A headshot of Tom's Guide contributor Nikita Achanta.
Nikita Achanta

I’m not ashamed to admit that over the years, my attention span has tanked, probably due to overconsumption of short-form media on Instagram and TikTok. I don’t think I have the patience to wait for weekly releases, only because I know I’ll move on to the next thing. I also have a tendency to hyperfixate — be it a game or a TV show — so I can’t sit around, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the next episode of, say, "Good Omens," when I know the next episode is going to change my life.

It was easier as a kid, sitting in front of the telly, waiting for the next episode of "Pokemon" or "Beyblade." But as an adult, when everything is so readily available — from music on Spotify to a '90s movie on Netflix — I want the next thing now lest I lose interest. It doesn’t matter if I choose not to watch all seven episodes together; I want the convenience of it, something to look forward to after a hard day’s work. Even with shows that release weekly, I just wait until all the episodes are out all the while dodging spoilers on X. It’s easier, and I’m not left feeling empty inside.

All at once, but there are benefits to a weekly release

Josh Render

I’d like to say I have the patience to wait for a show to come out weekly, but in reality I don’t. I usually like to watch shows to relax, and there’s something inherently stressful about a show just ending. I will never forgive "Bad Batch" for leaving us with Tech’s death like that. However, I get that the big companies do it for retention and it does keep me using the app. 

On the other hand, there is something to be said for the build up of anticipation. I remember being a kid and waiting for the next episode of "DragonBall Z" or "Digimon" to see if the heroes manage to succeed. I find that, waiting for episodes does tend to make me explore the other shows and movies on offer. I have found a few gems simply because the show I wanted to watch hadn’t been released yet. 

More from Tom's Guide

Kelly Woo
Streaming Editor

Kelly is the streaming channel editor for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.

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