The circle is now complete. First, Netflix created original programming to be more like the television networks. Now, a television network is trying to be more like Netflix.
NBC will try out binge-watching with Aquarius, an upcoming period crime drama starring David Duchovny. After the show's two-hour premiere on May 28, NBC will make the show's entire 13-episode run available on NBC.com, the network's mobile app, and cable VOD platforms.
"We are fully aware how audiences want to consume multiple episodes of new television series faster and at their own discretion, and we’re excited to offer our viewers this same experience," said NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt in a written statement.
The entire show's first season will remain online for four weeks, and Aquarius will air weekly on TV.
NBC also plans to offer fewer commercial slots during Aquarius broadcasts that are only available to select advertisers. The network says it's doing this to "mirror the commercial load on the VOD platforms."
Why this matters: NBC's experiment with Aquarius is yet the latest example of a major content producer trying to figure out how to contend with online audiences. CBS was the first out of the gate in October with the cable-free streaming service All Access, followed by HBO Now in March. NBC is unlikely to offer a cord-cutting service as it's owned by the largest cable provider in the U.S. Nevertheless, NBC's experiment, which is really a mash-up of Hulu and Netflix, is a step in the right direction.
Unless, of course, NBC requires you to authenticate a cable subscription to binge-watch Aquarius online.
NBC hasn't said whether it will present other shows binge-watch style, but for many mainstream broadcast TV shows it would be difficult. Shows with 20+ episode runs often continue production of later episodes once the season has begun, making binge-watching impossible. NBC would either have to change the way those shows are produced or focus on shorter runs to take binge-watching mainstream.