NBC Pulls a Netflix, Letting Viewers Binge-Watch David Duchovny’s New Detective Show

Streaming entire Aquarius series right after premiere

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A surprising new outlet has entered the binge-viewing arena to challenge Netflix: NBC.

The network will be streaming all 13 episodes of its new David Duchovny limited series drama, Aquarius, on NBC.com, its NBC app and other VOD platforms, after the show's two-hour network premiere on May 28.

"With Aquarius we have the opportunity to push some new boundaries to give our audience something no broadcast network has done before," said NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt. "We are fully aware how audiences want to consume multiple episodes of new television series faster and at their own discretion, and we're excited to offer our viewers this same experience since all 13 episodes of this unique show have been produced and are ready to be seen." 

All 13 episodes will remain available to stream for four weeks, while NBC will continue to air a new one-hour episode each Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.

In the drama, Duchovny plays a homicide detective in 1967 Los Angeles who is investigating the disappearance of a 16-year-old girl, who has fallen in with Charles Manson.

NBC said it will only be offering Aquarius to "a handful of certain advertising partners," so the commercial load will be identical on both linear and non-linear platforms. The network is billing the show as having "limited interruptions," much as Fox did earlier this season with Empire.

The network's binge announcement is a surprising but worthwhile gamble, due to the show's unique circumstances. With typical TV production schedules, most episodes are completed only weeks (and in some cases, days or hours) in advance of their air date. Aquarius, however, wrapped production months ago, and the network has already sent out the complete series to TV critics (which is another rarity for broadcast series). Also, ratings expectations are much lower in the summer for the broadcast network, which makes it the perfect time for NBC to attempt such a bold experiment.

One other possibility for the move: after watching the entire season, NBC executives might have had low expectations for Aquarius' possible success, and the binge-viewing option offers them a built-in excuse if ratings are soft.

NBC isn't the only network to experiment with binge-viewing options for its audience. Late last year, Starz made episodes of its drama Missing available to subscribers via On Demand and its Starz Play app. "We're experimenting with different things and seeing the impact," Starz CEO Chris Albrecht said earlier this year. "The fun thing is not to have one template for every show, but to do some things a little bit differently."

@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.