The success of Netflix’s Bridgerton and the long-awaited third season demonstrates the potential of original content from streaming services.

Season three, which was split into two parts, racked up a huge 3.1 billion minutes watched as of June 20, 2024.

The split-season model

This is not the first time Netflix has split a season, with other examples including You season four and The Witcher season three, but the move in general seems curious given Netflix’s original content strategy. As per GlobalData’s 2023 Video Streaming report, Netflix pioneered the ‘binging’ streaming model, which was soon considered a more convenient way to watch TV as viewers could binge-watch a whole series in a day rather than waiting weekly for episodes.

However, in its effort to produce a catalogue of binge-worthy shows, Netflix increased spending on content, causing a content war that resulted in Netflix spending $16bn on content by the end of 2022. Despite this influx of funding, or perhaps because of it, most streaming platforms run at a loss.

The idea behind splitting seasons is that it can generate increased interest in a show and sustain that interest for longer periods, rather than having one spike when the season is first released.

There are debates as to whether this strategy works, with some arguing that it kills a show’s momentum if the season isn’t long enough, and others arguing that it only works if a show already has a huge fanbase, like Stranger Things.

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

Regardless, even if the audience is complaining about split seasons, they’re still talking about the show, thus increasing its overall publicity. Unlike Netflix, other platforms, like Disney+, tend to release their shows once a week rather than all at once.

Reinforcing subscriber numbers

CNN reported that splitting the seasons can also be advantageous in retaining subscribers. If we take the example of Stranger Things season four, the two volumes were released in May and July 2022, Netflix’s second and third quarters respectively.

Anticipation for the second half made it less likely for viewers to cancel their memberships between quarters, thus helping the company maintain subscriber numbers. This helps to boost a key metric measuring the success of Netflix. Indeed, in 2022 its market value fell by $50bn after it was reported that its subscriber numbers dropped by 200,000 at the start of that year.

Since then, Netflix’s subscriber numbers have recovered. It gained 9.3 million new users in the first three months of 2024 alone. Despite this, Netflix has decided to stop publicly releasing its subscriber numbers from 2025. It would rather its success be measured on ‘engagement’ with the platform—in other words, time spent on it—and profitability. In Netflix’s defence, measuring profitability does seem a more concrete way of measuring success, especially as subscriber numbers can be volatile and externally influenced.

Take for example the loss of subscribers in 2022—part of this was due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the fact that Netflix suspended its services there, resulting in the loss of around 700,000 subscribers. Moreover, though its numbers were boosted by its crackdown on password sharing, this increase will eventually plateau. Therefore, keeping existing users engaged is more valuable in retaining subscribers and profitability.

Netflix split season engagement

Splitting seasons is one way in which Netflix is attempting to extend viewer engagement with its shows. In the month between parts, Bridgerton season three retained its online hype as anticipation ramped up for part two.

After its release, it was a hot topic as fans praised and criticised its choices online and on social media. If engagement is what Netflix wants to shift its focus to, splitting seasons of its most popular shows seems to be the way forward.