I wrote a couple of weeks ago that the entire series of The West Wing was due to drop November 19th on Stan. Surprise! It dropped yesterday instead! Every once in a while something will drop a day or two before its scheduled date, but six days early is pretty significant. Stan is a good streaming service, but it’s competing against Netflix, the streaming giant, and The West Wing is a high profile enough show that could attract subscribers in a month when Netflix is dropping three new original series.
Netflix has been around so long that it’s an established brand – many Australians have been using VPNs for years to access Netflix US, and continue to do so because the US library is much larger than in Australia and New Zealand. I strongly believe that Stan is a better streaming service than Netflix – they’re making an effort to fast track programming from the US like UnREAL, Flesh and Bone, Power, Ash vs The Evil Dead, Better Call Saul and iZombie. Netflix is less invested in that because they’re now focusing on producing original series – although Stan’s first original programme No Activity was very good as well. Todd VanDerWerff wrote a piece at Vox a couple of weeks ago about how Hulu is now a better streaming service than Netflix, and I honestly believe that’s also the case with Stan in Australia.
This is all background for speculation – I’m never going to know exactly why Stan decided to pull the Comedy Central shows and drop The West Wing a week early, but I have a theory. So far in November, Netflix has launched two new original series, Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, and With Bob and David, a sketch show by Bob Odenkirk and David Cross that acts as a sequel to their classic Mr Show (heads up: I don’t know that much about sketch comedy). Next Friday, every episode of Marvel’s Jessica Jones is dropping on Netflix, and following the success of Daredevil and considerations about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s a lot of anticipation. Netflix never releases their subscriber numbers, but we know that they have more subscrubers than Stan, because they’re an established brand. What Stan needs is subscribers, and what gets them subscribers are high profile shows like Friends and The West Wing.
My theory is that The West Wing release was brought forward to entice subscribers a week before Jessica Jones drops, rather than a day before. Get people to sign up for a free trial, get them hooked on The West Wing, and then they’ll be too busy watching that to bother watching Jessica Jones. It’s a good strategy, and I hope it works.