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Why a TV Show’s Premiere Date Still Matters, Even in the Age of Binging

Very Good TV Podcast — Sunday night is more than all right for TV.

Girls 601 Riz Ahmed

Mark Schafer/HBO

Here’s a peek at the upcoming TV release calendar, slightly edited to reflect shows and events relevant to IndieWire readers:

Sunday, February 12
“The Walking Dead” Midseason Premiere
Girls” Season 6 Premiere
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” Premiere
The Grammys (Live Event)
“Homeland”

Sunday, February 19
“The Walking Dead”
“Girls”
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”
“Big Little Lies” Limited Series Premiere
“Billions” Season 2 Premiere
“Crashing” Season 1 Premiere
“Homeland”

Sunday, February 26
The 89th Annual Academy Awards
“The Walking Dead”
“Girls”
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”
“Big Little Lies”
“Crashing”
“Billions”
“Homeland”

Do you notice anything about these three Sundays? More and more content is being made available on the same night, often at the same time. For instance, viewers in the East and Central time zones will have to choose between watching the Oscars, “The Walking Dead,” “Big Little Lies,” and “Homeland.” And the Oscars cross over into even more new episodes.

That would be quite a pickle for anyone without a little thing commonly referred to as “the internet.” Heck, even people with a DVR can make the easy choice of recording one thing — or five — while watching another. Then they can catch up on their own schedule. Delayed viewing has become so common these days that big networks like FX only report ratings that include time-shifted statistics. It’s the future, now, and people love it.

So why does it matter when a show premieres?

IndieWire TV Editor Liz Shannon Miller and TV Critic Ben Travers address that very question on the latest episode of Very Good TV Podcast. Episode No. 99 delves into the long-standing belief (“proven” by statistics over time) that more people are at home on Sunday nights, and a significant number of those folks are primed and ready to watch TV. Networks have been catering to that need for decades, supplying high-profile programs at a time when most people are most accepting of trying something new.

But there’s more to Sunday releases than sheer laziness, right? Look to Starz for recent answers. The network had been programming most of its original series on Saturday nights, but shifted everything to Sunday nights in mid-2016. CEO Chris Albrecht cited the desire to keep their series in discussion come Monday morning, when a lot of “water-cooler conversation” was happening either in real life (perhaps even at actual water coolers) or online. Having a flood of articles written about your shows and getting them read by more eyeballs than are ready to wake up on Sundays is quite valuable.

Sunday is also seen as a prestigious night for television. Many of the awards contenders battle it out on Sundays, and earning a spot among them in the ratings is a step toward winning gold at the Emmys.

For more, make sure to listen to the podcast above. Don’t forget to subscribe via Soundcloud or iTunes, and follow IndieWire on Twitter and Facebook for all your pertinent TV news. Check out Liz and Ben’s Twitter feeds for more, more, more. Plus, don’t forget to listen to IndieWire’s other podcastsScreen Talk with Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson, as well as Michael Schneider’s new podcast, Turn It On, which spotlights the most important TV of each week.

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