The content catalog at Netflix (NFLX -0.83%) keeps widening, but a new reality show has been one of its top draws for weeks. Love Is Blind has vaulted to the top spot in the U.S. over the weekend, even though the three-week event concluded more than a week ago.
A post-production reunion show that rolled out on Thursday is helping keep the dating show percolating in pop culture relevance, but the show's success is proof that Netflix doesn't have to make entire seasons of new shows available at launch. You can chill without the binge. You can win in the new game of streaming with the formula that's worked for generations through traditional media release dates.
Love at first sight
Love Is Blind offers a seemingly hokey premise. A year ago there were 30 men and women going through several rounds of speed dating without being able to see one another. It isn't until a wedding proposal is made and accepted -- and six couples initially made that leap -- that the fiancees finally get to see each other. The engaged couples were then whisked away on a Mexican beach resort vacation before meeting with friends and family ahead of the proposed nuptials.
Netflix released just half of the 10 episodes the day before Valentine's Day. The world's most popular premium streaming service followed that up with another four installments a week later, saving the altar-testing finale for the week after that.
This isn't the first time Netflix has held back from letting its growing subscriber base have access to an entire season of content at launch. Other reality-show competitions -- The Circle earlier this year and Rhythm + Flow this past fall -- had a similar cadence. A couple of its licensed third-party shows have also had staggered release dates.
For now, these slow reveals have been exceptions to the rule. The most popular serialized dramas and even sitcoms that Netflix has cranked out under its banner have been available immediately on a new season's debut date. It doesn't seem to bother Netflix that nearly every rival that has scored a big hit -- from The Handmaid's Tale to The Mandalorian -- has spaced out its episode installments.
It's easy to see why Netflix is spacing out some of these reality competitions. Would Love Is Blind still be trending if the entire run was pushed out into the wild on Feb. 13? Giving its episodes time to breathe helps build up anticipation, especially for contests. The strategy also encourages water-cooler chatter. The hip-hop Rhythm + Flow talent search and mystery roommate elimination contest The Circle were cult hits, but now Netflix has a top draw using the same approach with Love Is Blind. Isn't it just a matter of time before it tries to build up the hype for some of its more conventional programming?
Of course, Netflix can't take this approach with an existing show. Fans would be hopping mad if the next season of Stranger Things wasn't there for the binging from Day One. However, Netflix may want to see how audiences react to a new serialized drama with weekly installments. Milking more life out of a hit show isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially for a monster growth stock like Netflix that will inevitably face some challenges as the industry matures in the future.