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There seems to be a three way split in the broadcasting industry between

  • Streaming providers who provide instant access to all episodes of a series
  • Broadcasters who maintain a constant schedule of TV episodes until completion of the season
  • Broadcasters who place a mid-season break in the middle of their TV series

What is the rationale for a mid-season break at a time when audiences seem to favor bulk consumption of media in shorter time periods?

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    There are series on Netflix (UK) at the moment in all three patterns, so it's not just a difference between streaming and broadcast models. – Pete Kirkham Mar 27 '17 at 10:27
  • It is a difference because traditional broadcasters do not offer binge-watching capability until seasons have been screened prior. It's not that Netflix don't offer serial episodic content, it is that only streaming providers have instant access to all episodes of a series immediately. – Venture2099 Mar 27 '17 at 11:19
  • @Venture2099 You're confusing the ability to watch past episodes with the scheduling of episode releases. Some streaming services release an entire series at once, some offer one episode a week and some have a mid-season break. Television cannot do the first, but does both of the other two. – Pharap Mar 27 '17 at 21:12
  • I am not confusing anything. What you have just described in a de facto difference in models. – Venture2099 Mar 27 '17 at 22:59
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    The point is @PeteKirkham is right, the patterns are not due to streaming vs television differences. – Pharap Mar 27 '17 at 23:43
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This mid-season break is called Hiatus and it's general purpose is to make the show run longer. However, some TV channels reserve episodes for airing during ratings sweeps while calculating their television advertising fees based on their programs' ratings during that period.

From Screener TV (emphasis mine)

As with most things in the television industry, what it really comes down to is money. With the exception of premium cable networks, most networks make money off of their television shows by selling advertising. The advertising companies use ratings to decide how much a 30-second commercial is worth during a certain show, based on how many eyes will actually see that commercial.

Generally, it’s in the networks’ best interests to make sure their best, most attention-grabbing episodes air during sweeps, because then more Nielsen families will watch, then the networks can sell commercials for more money. That’s why you’ll most often see big-name guest stars or shocking twists during these periods. Shows often go on hiatus right before these breaks so that the networks can save their best episodes for sweeps weeks. Shows return from hiatus with a big promotional push and lots of press right as the advertising companies start paying attention.

The Guardian seems to have the same point.

But put simply: channels only want to screen their precious shows when the maximum number of people are watching – which allows them to charge advertisers more for the advertisements they put in the middle. There are other factors, but series tend to start in September/October, and then run until the end of November (Thanksgiving). They may return for a Christmas special, but otherwise disappear for six weeks – this year more, thanks to the Winter Olympics – replaced by repeats, until people can be trusted to be back on the sofa.

Sweeps

Each year, Nielsen processes approximately two million paper diaries from households across the country,[14] for the months of November, February, May and July—also known as the "sweeps" rating periods. The term "sweeps" dates from 1954, when Nielsen collected diaries from households in the Eastern United States first; from there they would "sweep" west

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    That's also a transition period when they make adjustments for programs that are not doing well (cancel, move, replace), isn't it? – PoloHoleSet Mar 27 '17 at 14:13
  • @PoloHoleSet Yes it is. But it's not the only concern. – A J Mar 27 '17 at 14:35
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    I asked because I assumed it was a factor (not THE factor), but I'm not up to speed on entertainment industry information enough to know whether that assumption was accurate or not. Thanks! – PoloHoleSet Mar 27 '17 at 14:36

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