It seems binging isn’t just for Netflix anymore. Or at least the Freeform cable channel is going to try and compete with streaming services at their own game.
Beyond, the new supernatural series planned for the former ABC Family channel, will not only debut its premiere episode Jan. 2 – it will share all 10 episodes of the first season online.
It’s a bold move for the show which does have Heroes creator Tim Kring behind it. But not one that has proven too successful in the past. In fact it was NBC that tried it with one of its summer series, Aquarius with David Duchovny, offering the entire first season online before sharing each episode week after week, presumably for those who don’t have an Internet connection. And just last week, NBC pulled the plug on the series after two short seasons.
Freeform, however, thinks it might be different this time.
Burkely Duffield, who most recently appeared in Warcraft: The Beginning, plays a man awoken from a coma after 12 years only to find he has supernatural abilities, according to The Hollywood Reporter. And with powers, of course, comes drama the way Kring likes to present it, and Beyond is born.
Tom Ascheim, president of Freeform, says the move is a major step forward for the cable channel.
“The premiere of Beyond marks an important milestone in the history of Freeform, nearly a year since our rebrand. One of the promises we made to our audience at the time was to create content they love and to make that content easily accessible. Beyond is our first, and definitely not our last, ‘binge-from-the-start’ show.”
Freeform certainly isn’t the first of the “old guard” television to try and compete with new media. Some outlets, like The CW, have struck deals for “instant reruns” with streaming services, allowing episodes that aired the night before to be made available on other platforms like Netflix or Hulu. Others, like CBS, is pushing its streaming service by offering original programming like a Good Wife spin-off and the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery.
However, unlike Netflix and some other streaming models, CBS will release just one episode per week, instead of releasing all episodes at once.
Freeform could experience some problems making the series available before it airs. While services like Netflix depends on paid subscribers, Freeform depends primarily on advertising – the kind that airs with the programs. Beyond could indeed have commercials included with its streaming version, but the ad rates typically charged digitally are far different from the tried and true terrestrial cable.
Allowing viewers to binge means that they are unlikely to watch the episodes as they air on Freeform, which means less money made from advertising. It’s a dangerous game of roulette for cable channels, hoping that gains from attracting binge-watching viewers will make up for losses from traditional broadcasts.
At the same time, Freeform does have a much younger audience than other typical cable channels, and these are viewers who are used to getting everything at once.
Beyond has some big names behind the scenes besides Kring. One of the executive producers is David Eick, one of the leaders of Syfy’s successful post-apocalyptic series Battlestar Galactica. It was created by a relative newcomer, however, Adam Nussdorf, whose writing credits include a handful of episodes from Tron: Uprising and the short-lived Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.
Beyond debuts on Freeform and online Jan. 2.
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