Downton or House of Cards: Sequential or Batch TV Releases?

Other than sports and news programs -- along, of course, with our daughter's favorite shows -- I am not a big television watcher. Having said this, I felt quite left out a few weeks ago when, on the road, I received several e-mails about two shows that I am hooked on. As I couldn't access either my DVR at home or shows posted online (yes, I am still seriously lagging technology-wise), I found myself instead reflecting on a debate that was also raging elsewhere.

The two shows I am talking about are House of Cards and Downton Abbey.

The first I came to naturally given that I had eagerly watched the British version which first aired over 20 years ago and I loved it and still do (in fact, it is currently being shown on PBS stations).

Downton Abbey was a harder sell, at least initially. It took lots of encouragement from my wife and friends, along with a day in bed last December with an awful flu which allowed me to catch up on earlier seasons.

Now I am hooked on both, very eagerly looking forward to the next seasons!

As many of you know, Netflix releases the entire new season of House of Cards in one go. In contrast, the new episodes of Downton Abbey come in weekly installments.

Which is better?

Binge watchers prefer the Netflix approach, as do those seeking immediate gratification. Most economists would also opt for this approach since it provides the viewers with most "optionality": they can more easily determine the viewing approach that best suits them (provided, and this is an important qualifier, they can also limit external information that would give the plot away prematurely).

Others, however, prefer (and may even need a disciplining mechanism) to spread out their viewing pleasure over a number of weeks. Such an approach gives them more time to enjoy and absorb each episode. It also provides for greater social interactions. And it reduces the risk of a spoiled plot.

So, where do I stand on this?

Sadly, the debate is -- operationally -- not that very relevant for me!

Like many of you, my schedule is such as to limit both binge and regular watching. So, whether it is via the DVR or the internet, I tend to watch the episodes quite a bit of time after they have been first released. As such, both approaches converge to the same reality for me!

Case closed!