The Structure of Netflix's 2015 Release Calendar

 

2015 was Netflix's busiest year for original programming by far. After Netflix announced the premiere date for this year's final original series — That's Bill Burr's F Is for Family; The documentary Chelsea Does still doesn't have a release date — I thought it'd be interesting to take a look at their release calendar.

I decided to take a look at Netflix's original programming for 2015: 28 seasons of "release-all-at-once" shows1, 12 stand-up specials, 7 documentaries, 3 specials, and 1 film. Of those shows, 20 were season 1 debuts, mostly with 10 or 13 episodes each, up from only 2 shows (BoJack Horseman & Marco Polo) in 2014.

In 2015, Netflix released at least one season of their 28 shows every month except for January. February 20th saw the release of their first show for the year (Richie Rich) and was followed by season 3 of House of Cards. Nearly all of Netflix's releases happened on a Friday. Four shows (Between, Orange is the New Black2, Longmire, & Dawn of the Croods) were released on Thursdays, and one (Chef's Table) was released on Sunday. Notably, August 7th was the only date where Netflix released two new seasons/shows3 (Club de Cuervos & Project Mc2). By releasing one show per week (except for Between & season 2 of Richie Rich being released one day apart) Netflix had original show releases for half of the calendar year.

Netflix's stand-up release schedule has less to analyze, but it's notable that their standup releases are staggered to (roughly) be once a month4. More interesting however is that for the stand-up release dates that don't overlap with show drops, it allows Netflix to cover five more weeks of the calendar year. And it allowed them to pack October full of new content. Is there a reason for Netflix to focus on October? It's possible they're hopeful to gain more new subscribers as the weather starts to cool, but where they also don't have to compete with family gatherings around the holidays.

Factoring in the rest of Netflix's original programming (the special & film, plus documentaries) Netflix released a total of 51 pieces of original programming in 2015, over the span of 37 weeks5. March 6th and May 22nd saw the simultaneous release of new shows, stand-up specials, and documentaries and were the busiest days for Netflix releases for the year with some curious6 timing. Netflix officially entered the film industry with October 16th's Beasts of No Nation, just over 44 months after kicking off what turned out to be a successful original series venture.

I'll be really interested to see how Netflix continues to grow their original programming library. 2016 is slated to see the introduction of 25 new7 Netflix shows, new seasons of 12 renewed shows, and five original films. All of this may change of course but it looks like 2016 will be a year that rivals 2015, with Netflix focusing on expanding their original film slate.


  1. 1⃣️ For consistency, I excluded some of the animated shows that Netflix has released since they had staggered release dates. Netflix generally chooses to release all episodes of their episodic shows at once, but for some animated shows such as Turbo FAST where Netflix opted to release them in batches, noting: "Production on animation is on a different timetable, so we chose to make the episodes that are ready now available for viewers as they were ready". 

  2. 2⃣️ Season 3 of Orange is the New Black was released early, ahead of its original planned release date of June 12th. 

  3. 3⃣️ This isn't particularly interesting though, when you look at the fact that Project Mc2 only had 3 episodes. Netflix isn't afraid to release a small amount of content, or vary the lengths of its seasons. 

  4. 4⃣️ Despite having enough original stand-up to release one per month, Netflix instead doubled up on October and December. 

  5. 5⃣️ The two originals with no exact release dates mentioned earlier have been announced for December, which already has at least one Netflix release for all but the last week of the month. Unless Netflix releases F Is for Family or Chelsea Does in the last week, it doesn't impact their coverage of the calendar year. 

  6. 6⃣️ March 6th is just in time for a lot of spring breaks in America, and May 22nd is just after the end of college finals as well. I think the push with new original content in the weeks leading up to these dates is on purpose and really smart for Netflix. 

  7. 7⃣️ This includes continuations of existing shows from outside Netflix (Fuller House & a reboot of The Magic School Bus) plus a Chelsea Handler talk show.