Summer Blockbusters? Try Summer Streambusters.

by Glenn Hower | Jul. 28, 2017

Ever since the release of Jaws in June of 1975, summer has been the realm of the multiplex blockbuster. Tentpole action film franchises like Star Wars, Batman, Spider-man, Jurassic Park, and Indiana Jones often find themselves in theaters during the summer movie season from May through July. Summer generally brought a lull in television, the demands of weekly programming schedules relegated to low-cost or specialty programming while the cast and crews of in-season prime time programs went on hiatus. However, the new age of streaming through subscription video on-demand (SVOD) services presents a compelling case for television programming to release during the summer months.

As they are not beholden to a weekly programming schedule, SVOD services are free to release television series when and how they choose. OTT distributors can even produce series in their entirety and sit on them until a later release date. Netflix in particular launched several key original franchise series over the summer. Orange is the New Black premiered in July 2013 and has remained a summer perennial ever since. In summer 2016, Netflix scored big with the debut of its 1980s homage hit Stranger Things, though season 2 premieres in October 2017 so the sci-fi/horror/thriller can coincide with Halloween. Netflix hopes to continue its summer success in conjunction with the blockbuster feel of superhero action as it releases miniseries Marvel’s The Defenders in August.

The streaming space is uniquely suited to release summer television series for several reasons:

  • Full season releases – Unlike the traditional television space where programmers release episodes on a week-to-week basis, streaming providers can produce shows on whatever schedule they want and release the entire season at once.
  • Binge-worthiness – Since most subscription OTT services release series in their entirety, content becomes instantly binge-worthy. The key is to stagger releases throughout the year in order to maintain stickiness of its customers, lest they stray away from the service at times there are no new releases.
  • It’s hot outside (except where it’s not) – Summer in much of the U.S. is hot, particularly in the scorching south and southwest. People may be less likely to leave their homes when faced with the prospect of air-conditioned entertainment at home. However, with OTT services expanding their reach worldwide, winter binging in Oceania could be just as appealing.

OTT is not the only television distribution space leveraging summer audiences at home. For its season 7 premiere, HBO opted to release core series Game of Thrones in July. Not to be outdone, BBC America and Canadian network Space leveraged the summer crowd in 2017, as the fifth and final season of breakout hit Orphan Black premiered in June. All considered, the summer blockbuster is not going away. There will always be a place for tentpole films like the 2017 installments of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Wonder Woman. But as home entertainment becomes every bit as compelling as theatrical releases, summer might just become prime real estate for streaming video.

Further Reading:

Next: The New Breed of SVOD Services
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