New York (CNN Business) — “Stranger Things 4 — Vol. 2” hits Netflix this weekend, and the kids of Hawkins, Indiana are back at just the right time for the streaming giant.
It’s been a horrible 2022 for Netflix. Its stock is down 70% this year. In April, the company reported that it lost subscribers for the first time in more than a decade. Last week, Netflix laid off 300 employees. His earnings report later this month is projected to show a loss of two million more subscribers.
But there is one thing that has been great for Netflix (NFLX): “Stranger Things.”
The first part of the fourth season of the sci-fi horror series debuted in May to record numbers, becoming the most popular English-language TV show on Netflix. It’s been No. 1 on Netflix’s English Top 10 list for all four weeks since it premiered, and it also helped make a 1985 song a big hit again.
So why would a company that revolutionized the viewing experience with binge-watching split its biggest franchise into two parts? The answer is not strange at all.
The keys to division
The two premieres take place in two different spaces for the company. “Stranger Things 4—Vol. 1” premiered on May 27, which is in Netflix’s second quarter, and “Vol. 2” arrives on July 1, which kicks off the company’s third.
It’s hard for fans of the popular show to cancel their membership before they’ve seen the entire season. With new episodes spanning two different quarters over the holiday weekends, the company has a better chance of retaining subscribers, which it needs to do to keep Wall Street happy.
The other non-monetary reason why “Stranger Things” is being split: The show is huge this season.
“With nine scripts, over eight hundred pages, nearly two years of filming, thousands of visual effects shots, and a runtime nearly double that of any previous season, ‘Stranger Things 4’ was the most challenging season yet, but also the most rewarding,” the Duffer brothers, the show’s creators, wrote in a February note. “Given the unprecedented length, and to get it here as soon as possible, Season 4 will be released in two volumes.”
The Duffers weren’t being hyperbolic.
“Stranger Things 4 — Vol. 1” is about nine hours long. The final two episodes that make up “Vol. 2” have runtimes that match those of feature films, with episode eight running an hour and 25 minutes and episode nine clocking in at a whopping two hours and 30 minutes.
A marathon? How about a split?
So there’s a business reason and a creative reason to split the season. But there is also another justification: it keeps the show in the public consciousness.
“They changed things up a bit by splitting the ‘Stranger Things’ release into two halves,” Zak Shaikh, vice president of programming at investigative media firm Magid, told CNN Business. “But in general, they can slow down the launch of some of their major franchises, so those shows stay part of the conversation longer.”
By having “Stranger Things” episodes a month or so apart, Netflix gets two bites, markets the same season twice, and keeps the show top of mind with its viewers.
This is not the first time Netflix has split a series. The final season of “Ozark,” another Netflix hit, was split into two quarters when it premiered episodes from its final season in January and April earlier this year.
There has been a lot of debate about whether streamers should release episodes weekly or all at once. Netflix, which has mostly stuck to the binge-watching model, may have found a happy medium.
“The marathons worked as a strategy to disrupt the market,” Shaikh said. “But it doesn’t maximize the value of strong properties.”
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