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Is Binge-Watching Dead?: The Revival of One-Episode-A-Week TV

By Avery Hellberg

Photo by Mark Michelini

January 2022 was a cold, long, and depressing month. COVID-19 cases were skyrocketing, and it didn’t seem like winter was ever going to end. For many, “Euphoria Sundays” were an incredibly necessary escape. At 9 p.m., friends would gather around tiny laptop screens to watch the newest episode of the hottest teen drama on television currently. Immediately after, viewers would flock to social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok to talk with thousands of other viewers around the world and share their opinions. In a world exhausted by binge-viewing culture, HBO’s Sunday night release schedule was a nostalgic breath of fresh air.

HBO has released its original content on Sundays for the majority of the TV network's existence. However, with the surge of popularity for HBO Max, the network’s streaming service, their release schedule is refreshing when so many other streaming platforms drop entire seasons of their shows all at once. While the concept of binge-watching was preferable at the beginning of the existence of streaming platforms, it erases all the excitement and anticipation that comes with cliffhangers and storylines with loose ends. Most notably for this current generation, the episode-a-week format is resurrecting the concept of the “water cooler talk.”

Prior to HBO Max’s launch in Spring 2020, content chief Kevin Reilly talked to Deadline about the network’s release schedule.

“We like creating cultural impact and nurturing great value from our IP,” Reilly said. “Our creators also see the value in rolling out shows gradually and letting them breathe.”

The idea of “letting the episodes breath” has proved to be a successful way to garner attentive and loyal viewers.

Eugene Viti, a sophomore at Boston University, talks about what he enjoys about HBO Max and his experiences with the streaming platform.

“I think that HBO’s release schedule draws out the viewing experience,” Viti said. “If they had dropped all 7 episodes of The White Lotus at once, I would’ve watched it all in one day which takes away from the buildup to the finale.”

It’s difficult to have a conversation about the content being produced today without talking about social media. Viti appreciated the effect of social media on the viewing experience.

“The fact that you can hop on Twitter right after the episode, or even in the middle of the episode, and see how people are reacting live enhances the whole experience,” Viti said.

HBO Max is creating TV shows that are on par with blockbuster movies. With the majority of their episodes being at least an hour long, as well as the incredible production value of their shows, HBO Max is creating cinematic universes. Their episode release schedule only strengthens their spot as the top streaming platform powerhouse.


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