This week, Netflix airdrops a whole new series for binge-viewing, testing whether streaming-video audiences will turn out for supernatural bloodbaths in the same numbers they did for political intrigue.
On Thursday, Netflix premieres “Hemlock Grove,” a werewolf drama based on the Brian McGreevy novel. The series is produced by “Cabin Fever”/ “Hostel” director Eli Roth, who also directs the first episode, “Jellyfish in the Sky,” and stars Famke Janssen (“X-Men”), Dougray Scott, Bill Skarsgard and Lili Taylor. The show focuses on a small town's reaction to a grisly murder and the presence of lycanthropes living on the fringes.
So far, 2013 has marked Netflix's big test of whether its streaming service subscribers will turn out for original programming, and just how they will consume it — in small portions or all-you-can-eat gorge-fests. This trend began in earnest Feb. 1 with the David Fincher-produced first season of “House of Cards,” starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. All 13 episodes arrived at once, giving that sector increasingly known as “binge-viewers” the chance to peel their eyes open, forego sleep, call in sick and indulge in Washington skulduggery.
“House of Cards” was not Netflix' first foray into this kind of programming: in 2012, the service released “Lilyhammer,” an eight-episode Norwegian import starring Steven Van Zandt (“The Sopranos”) as an American gangster hiding out in a Scandinavian village. But with “House of Cards,” the stakes were much higher — the first season reportedly cost $100 million to produce.
While Netflix did not release viewership numbers, “House of Cards” continues to place highly on the service's “Popular on Netflix” feed. It is currently No. 5 behind “Mad Men,” which recently added its fifth season to the service; “The Hunger Games,” which debuted earlier this month on both Netflix and Amazon Instant Video; “Arrested Development” and “The Walking Dead.”
While “Arrested Development” is a perennial favorite on the service, the popularity of the groundbreaking comedy's original three-season run is currently bolstered by anticipation for the next big Netflix binge session: the exclusive release of 15 new episodes on May 26. While it's hard to tell whether there is overlap on the “Hemlock Grove”/ “Arrested Development” Venn diagram, Netflix will likely watch its viewership for Roth's series closely once it drops on Thursday, to see whether people will binge or purge.