When Amazon Studios' first original series “Alpha House” debuted Nov. 15, it arrived on Amazon Prime with just three episodes available — the original episode of the political comedy, which bowed during Amazon Prime's pilot season this spring, and the first two new ones after Amazon picked up the show.
That's only three episodes with new installments coming every Friday, but in a streaming video environment where binging on entire seasons is the order of the day, why is Amazon counting calories?
This could have something to do with Amazon's free-for-a-month introductory offer to sell Prime service based on “Alpha House” and “Betas,” the Silicon Valley-based comedy that rolled out its first three episodes on Friday. Presumably, the hope is that enough people will be enticed to sign up for Prime after seeing the first half of these series, all so they can see the rest of the episodes after the clock runs out on their free trials.
We're watching the conventional wisdom evolve rapidly on the subject of streaming and binge-viewing. When “House of Cards” debuted in early 2013, the debate centered on how Netflix' full-season release strategy would affect the collective appreciation of television. In other words, there was much hand-wringing over the death of the “water cooler” and premature nostalgia for the days when we'd sit around discussing the previous night's “Sopranos” episode on Monday morning.
But once “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” gained cultural traction, new models of “water cooler” discussion emerged as viewers found their relative consumption speeds. Those who fully binged engaged in full data-dumps with like-minded viewers, deferred or delayed discussion with people who were pacing themselves, or prefaced interchanges with questions like “Have you gotten to the one with the chicken?” to avoid spoiler deployment. Essentially, people either had five-gallon water cooler discussions or broke it down 20 ounces at a time, depending on the audience. Binge viewing did not kill the conversation — it changed how we engage.