With the countless amount of streaming services, there are so many choices of TV shows to watch anywhere you want on anything you want. Most of these shows come with a countless amount of episodes. Because of the many options, something’s been more obvious than usual, network shows have been getting longer and Netflix original shows have been getting shorter.
One of the first tv shows to air was The Lone Ranger, a western drama series that lasted 221 episodes with 30 minutes each. Even since the beginning of time, networks ran their shows as long as they could. This differs from subscription videos on demand, the first Netflix original, House of Cards, lasted 73 episodes 50 minutes each. On average, most shows last 6 to 7 seasons. So why do so many of them have 10 to 20?
Comedies are usually 20 to 30 minutes long while dramas are usually 40 to 60 minutes long, yet both genres could have the same amount of seasons. Grey’s Anatomy has endless character deaths for 17 seasons and The Simpsons finally ran out of future predictions after 32 seasons. There may be a reason as to why subscription-based streaming service shows have fewer seasons than network shows.
As TV shows gain more seasons, their quality decreases. Consumer-wise it might be frustrating to never get the ending you’ve been waiting over 10 years for but business-wise, it’s beneficial. Such as Fox Broadcasting Company using Simpsons merchandise and ad revenues to gain profit.
Since television series don’t make their money back during the time their episodes release, they have to be sold into a syndication package to regain their investment. This refers to shows that were first aired on network television, and are being broadcasted again as reruns. To make them a potential show to invest in, a minimum number of 110–135 episodes are needed.
Nishat Choudhury is a 28 year old immigrant from Bangladesh that came to America 2 years ago. She’s more fluent in English than most born Americans because she’s repeatedly watched Friends and other American classic TV shows. “In the last season of How I Met Your Mother, they made one wedding day into over 20 episodes filled with details that could’ve been covered in 3 episodes and the ending was universally disappointing,” she said.
It’s hard for many shows to have a season finale that doesn’t anger the viewers, usually straying from the purpose of why the show started. Such as Pretty Little Liars finding out who the antagonist was but still created new problems for more seasons.
Alternatively, there are many Network shows that have a small amount of seasons. Breaking Bad is one of the most loved TV shows with only 5 seasons. Many fans were sad the show ended but not about how it ended. If the show went on any longer, the show would slowly decay, disappointing the fans even more. Although Breaking Bad only lasted 63 episodes, it still received syndication rights because the success of the show was an investment itself without the 40 other episodes.
Credit: Screenshot from ABC website
Nishat Choudhury also mentioned that she watches shows after the show’s finale is released because the gaps in between the season release and in the middle of the seasons are too long. Networks do this because their broadcasting schedules are getting more crowded and writers need time to think of ideas to produce more episodes.
Dewan Choudhury is a 32 year old Penn State graduate with a love for tv shows, but not the patience for the elongated ones. Like Netflix, Disney+ also has their original shows and movies. “WandaVision and Mandalorian made each episode 30 minutes long with a minimum amount of new information and then made the last 2 minutes interesting for a cliffhanger so you feel the urge to know what happens in the next episode. I don’t think this is a good way to gain an audience,” he said.
Netflix and Disney+ keeps their seasons shorter because there’s no need for syndication rights since they’re usually the international distributor of the show. The shorter the shows, the easier to binge, Netflix knows this and knows the viewer audience will decrease once a season gets too long. They use this knowledge to release the episodes within each season all at once for the binge watchers.
The next time you see a show go on for longer than needed, just remember, it’s all business.