In case you haven’t been paying attention, NBC is really swinging for the fences with its new period drama “Aquarius.” In a highly experimental act, the network released the entire first season of the David Duchovny-led series online following its two-hour premiere in late May.
“Aquarius,” which will debut its third episode on television tonight, focuses on a seasoned WWII veteran and homicide detective Sam Hodiak (Duchovny) working in Hollywood in 1967. When an ex-girlfriend asks him to investigate the disappearance of her daughter, he takes the case and soon finds himself investigating none other than the infamous Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony).
While the premise should be enough to hook your average drama lover, NBC is using “Aquarius” as a bit of an experiment into the realm of binge-watching. According to Variety, all 13 episodes of the series became available to watch following the May 28 premiere. Viewers can watch the full season at NBC.com, via the NBC app and all other VOD (video on demand) platforms that are partnered with the network (including Hulu Plus). That means anyone can log into their app of choice and watch all of Season 1 at once.
NBC is still airing one episode of the series each week on Thursdays at 9 p.m. EDT for the more traditional viewers, but for those who choose to consume the show online, there’s an added benefit. The streaming episodes will have a little bit of content that could not air on cable television, such as violence, nudity and coarse language. That means that if you're watching the series solely on television, you’re not seeing all "Aquarius" has to offer.
Before you get too excited that NBC is becoming the new Netflix, it’s important to mark one key difference between the roll out of “Aquarius” and, say, “House of Cards.” While Netflix puts its content up all at once and leaves it there for subscribes to return to whenever, NBC is only offering the full season of its new show on VOD for one month, according to Forbes. The idea is that a ticking clock on the episode’s availability will force interested viewers to check the show out sooner rather than later. This method could eventually lead to cable networks foregoing the traditional weekly episode format in favor of a more profitable release online, assuming the math ends up working out.
Unfortunately, as Vulture notes, while “Aquarius” could end up reshaping the way networks release shows, it could just as easily be a failed experiment that gets swept under the rug. VOD platforms like Netflix and Hulu Plus are notorious for keeping their viewership data a well-kept secret. NBC hasn’t revealed whether or not they’ll give the public their first look at what binge-watching data looks like. However, the outlet speculates that if the numbers aren’t good or favorable-looking to advertisers, the grand “Aquarius” experiment will simply be cast aside as minor footnote in television history.
While we wait to see if the online data will mean anything substantial for the future of television, you can watch Season 1 of “Aquarius” online or tune in to episodes Thursdays at 9 p.m. EDT on NBC.