I’m not the biggest fan of Netflix. It’s a confused brand that offers so much to every possible viewer, that it’s impossible to tell quite who they’re catering for.
One thing they do that I’ll always be grateful for is whenever a new drama, documentary, comedy or reality series drops, it drops on the same day on the platform across the world. The same can be said of AppleTV+ which has really stepped up in terms of quality this year, but other platforms are harder to understand.
Let’s take the UK’s version of Disney+. We’re quite fortunate in the UK because with Disney+ we also get a slimmed-down version of US streaming giant HULU through their ‘Star’ brand. This is good news because FX, arguably the most exciting US brand outside of HBO, now works almost exclusively for HULU. We get all the Disney+ Originals, like the Marvel series or Star Wars series at the same time as everyone else with Disney+ across the world but it’s the HULU Originals that still remain a slight mystery.
Only Murders in the Building, which recently completed its second season aired here the same day as it dropped on HULU meaning we were all part of the same conversation. Other big critically acclaimed series haven’t received the same treatment. FX drama The Bear, which arrived on HULU as a boxset in June, has been named one of the best shows of the year by the mountain of critics and TV fans. Yet, at the time of posting, we have no idea when it’s going to arrive here in the UK. The even more puzzling thing is we actually have no idea where either! A lot of the HULU stuff is still bouncing around different platforms. Season 2 of The Great, which is currently airing on Channel 4, is a HULU Original so should, using some form of logic, end up on Disney+. Instead, it went to the little streamer StarzPlay before arriving on Channel 4 in a weekly slot.
The same happened with the other Elle Fanning vehicle, The Girl From Plainville which, again was an HULU Original and again went to StarzPlay. The conversation that surrounds a television show is more crucial than ever before. With so much being thrown at us, it is entirely possible to miss something you’d really love, or not to spot that your favourite show is back. By not airing these shows at the same time, we are losing out on the conversation.
When Channel 4 left big gaps between seasons of LOST in the early 00s it wasn’t as easy for UK fans to have twists spoiled by enthusiastic American fans theorising what it all meant. Now, we live in a much more connected world. It’s part of the reason why the film industry can’t afford to leave the long gaps we used to have between a blockbuster breaking box office records before arriving in the UK months later. Now, although I don’t condone it, it is far easier to see things from elsewhere if you’re really keen to see them, but streamers are doing subscribers a disservice by not launching these shows when the rest of the world is talking about them.
Co-productions are another side of the industry at the moment that is further complicating matters. The second series of the very British drama Industry is currently airing on HBO. It’s a co-production between the BBC and HBO and I don’t know the details of who has first showing rights, but it seems an odd choice to have a big, brash and British drama airing first in the US when the UK has to wait till next month to see it. The streamers, which initially felt easier to navigate now feel muddier and more confused. We will, presumably. eventually, get every HULU Original on Disney+ over here, but it’s the slow arrival of each show I find strange and slightly frustrating. In a world where your show can sink if no one is talking about it across their social media platforms, it’s a risky strategy to leave big swathes of your audience out of the conversation and as a big fan of television, I’ll always find it immensely frustrating that I can’t see the shows that a big portion of my timeline is buzzing about.