By: Joseph Longo
Netflix is tease. Earlier this week, the major streaming network released their Binge Scale. It’s both the answer to the absent ratings of Netflix originals and a pointless marketing tool.
After examining the global viewing of more than 100 TV series, Netflix showcased their top shows by category. From Savor to Devour, certain shows are supposedly best viewed spread out while others can be taken in all at once:
“As The Binge Scale indicates, the viewing experience of a series can range from the emotional to the thought-provoking,” said Cindy Holland, Vice President of Original Content at Netflix. “Netflix helps you to find a series to binge no matter your mood or occasion, and the freedom to watch that series at your own pace - whether that’s to appreciate the drama of Bloodline or power through Orange is the New Black.”
Sounds great. But, what’s the point? The data is presented in a visually appealing chart keeps the information interesting and engaging, with categorial distinctions along the scale. However, it’s just a facade. What at first appears compelling, is just masterful advertising.
A House of Cards approach to the show’s success.
Take the “Political Dramas” category. Homeland, The Good Wife, and The West Wing rank among the top five shows. House of Cards and Occupied accompany these longstanding mainstays. One show is a Norwegian television series rightfully receiving some world recognition. The other, unsurprisingly, is a Netflix original.
In presenting the top five, Netflix lists them in alphabetical order. There is no indication of rankings within the top five. Meaning, using Robin Wright in House of Cards as the face of “Political Drama” on the graph is misleading. None of the information presented credits House of Cards as the top show. It feels too self-serving.
Of course, Netflix wants to highlight their original programming like any major network. However, their marketing campaign lacks much needed transparency. The raw data is circumstantial and limited but presented as engrossing and surprising. More questions persist than answered.
Arrow: the action-packed non-superhero program.
Subjectivity dominates the graph as Netflix themselves chose categories including “Irreverent Comedies” and “Crime Drama.” But, no descriptions are supplied to distinguish the groupings. Shouldn’t “Superhero Drama” be a subcategory of “Action & Adventure” instead of a stand-alone entity? Superhero shows by nature are action television.
The subjectivity does not stop there. Arrow ranks in “Action & Adventure,” but is notably absent from “Superhero Drama.” Perhaps Arrow was not a top superhero show. Seems fair. But why does “Superhero Drama” list five shows when “Action & Adventure” lists a whopping nine? Consistency is lacking.
It’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt without the “fascinating transition.”
Netflix is known for its binge-watching capability, but the information presented does not exude the all-encompassing and engrossing trademark. Of course Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and BoJack Horseman rank in “Irreverent Comedies”; Netflix is the only network where these admittedly stellar shows are available to stream. But, how do they compare to second-run shows? That’s the information worth presenting.
The Netflix Binge Scale is full of cliffhangers. It’s Narcos without a follow-up episode. Tailor-made for Netflix’s innate ability to spur conversations surrounding binge-watching on social media, the Binge Scale dominated Twitter after its release. Yet, it doesn’t have the same gravitas like their original programming to spur conversation on social media. Or, withdrawal for those who aren’t caught up.
But, that’s the ironic success of the marketing campaign. Presenting limited information pique the interest for a follow-up. Just as many are waiting for the next season of Marvel's Jessica Jones, they’ll be waiting for more data.