Can Netflix Pull Off a Talk Show?

Netflix recently announced what is admits is an experiment: a talk show featuring Bill Nye. The show, Bill Nye Saves the World, will revolve around different scientific topics and busting myths. But while Netflix has become a popular platform for binge-watching shows and movies, is it the right service to release a talk show?

While neither Netflix nor Bill Nye are strangers to the world of TV, a talk show is a much different form of entertainment. It’s more ephemeral; topics may only be relevant for a couple of days or weeks. They’re not serialized, so people can easily skip boring discussions. Some talk shows contain a handful of different segments, and people may only be interested in one of the segments. Unlike a serialized show, which keeps people engaged and encouraging them to binge an entire season, there may not be a direct link between episodes of this talk show.

A big question revolves around distribution. Will the whole season be produced and released all at once or will episodes come out periodically, once per day or week? Do people want to binge an entire season of a talk show? If not, then they may watch an episode or two and stop, not seeing a reason to return later. If episodes came out each week, that may encourage viewers to return for more episodes. However, if the content is not interesting, a week may be enough time for it to be placed completely out of your mind. Also, if episodes were published daily, it may feel like we’re being inundated with content and not be willing to watch any of it.

Talk shows are relatively inexpensive to produce. Often there’s a limited number of sets and not a lot of high action shots. It has been a large part of US networks as a sort of filler during the low activity in the morning and late night. A big question Netflix faces is whether people will actively seek out a talk show. When you’re able to watch any content you want, you’re no longer limited to the business needs of linear programming.

It is good to see Netflix experiment with different ideas, and not all of them have to be successful. A talk show is a bold idea for an on-demand streaming service and I would be interested in seeing how well it performs once the show is released next Spring. Based on my first impression, some sort of ephemeral daily or weekly content may not be enough for the series success. However, if the content produced is able to live beyond just the day it is published, I think there’s a chance it’ll be watched by a large number of people.

Nick Felker

Nick Felker

Nick Felker is a student Electrical & Computer Engineering student at Rowan University (C/O 2017) and the student IEEE webmaster. When he's not studying, he is a software developer for the web and Android (Felker Tech). He has several open source projects on GitHub (http://github.com/fleker)Devices: Moto G-2013 Moto G-2015, Moto 360, Google ADT-1, Nexus 7-2013 (x2), Lenovo Laptop, Custom Desktop.Although he was an intern at Google, the content of this blog is entirely independent and his own thoughts.

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  • Jason Brian Chapa

    Nick, Netflix already has a talk show: Chelsea https://www.netflix.com/search/chelsea?jbv=80049872&jbp=0&jbr=0
    However, I don’t hear anyone talk about it, so I wonder what the viewership numbers are.

    • I hadn’t heard anything about that, so it may not be too successful. I expect that Netflix may apply the lessons they learned to this new project.