Netflix's (NASDAQ:NFLX) first original series for kids will premiere on Dec. 24, and the leading video service is doing things a little differently this time.
When DreamWorks Animation's (NASDAQ:DWA) Turbo FAST debuts on Christmas Eve, only the first five episodes will be available on Netflix, according to Variety. The balance of the 26 episodes that Netflix ordered will be available in spurts through 2014.
Netflix has historically offered an entire season at once, encouraging what it calls binge viewing. Offering the entire season of House of Cards or Orange Is the New Black allows subscribers to view the shows on their terms, just as they would stream any of the other shows in its growing digital library. That's not going to happen this time.
Netflix tells Variety that the nature of animation production is why just five of the shows will be available later this month. There is some merit to that, even though viewing the trailer shows that this isn't the same rich computer-rendered fare that DreamWorks Animation typically puts out.
Kids aren't as likely to care, and in a few months -- when all 26 episodes are available -- it won't matter.
However, what if Netflix is dragging its feet because DreamWorks Animation's Turbo was a box office dud this summer?
Netflix set the Turbo FAST deal in motion before Turbo hit movie theaters, and when it landed at your neighborhood multiplex it wasn't exactly a winner. The animated feature was a box office dud, taking in just $21.3 million in domestic ticket sales during its opening weekend. The $83 million it ultimately raked in ranks it toward the bottom of DreamWorks Animation's releases. It fared better overseas, and that's something that will matter, since Netflix is also offering Turbo FAST in its international plans.
Netflix is unlikely to have a way out of the entire slate of episodes it ordered, but it will be able to gauge viewer interest based on how well the first five shows fare. It can also possibly use any feedback to tweak the later episodes before they are completed.
There is no right way to handle a digital release. Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) decided to dive into original programming last month with just a handful of Alpha House episodes. Turbo FAST isn't likely to be the last show that follows Amazon's playbook. Netflix won't always have the luxury of having an entire season of fresh programming available at a certain date. It's not the end of the world. Swapping the self-paced indulgence of binge viewing for the promotional and viral merits of staggered releases could be a positive for Netflix.
It all starts with a speedy snail that joins the racing circuit, and no one knows where the checkered flag will be at the end.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, DreamWorks Animation, and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com and Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.