Right now every Star Wars fan in the UK is reeling from the fact that Disney, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that it really is going to stagger the release of The Mandalorian (among other things) despite the fact that it's been available in several countries (and to VPN users/pirates) for months. We get two episodes on launch day (24th), another on Friday 27th, and then a new episode each Friday until we run out.
It's a decision that makes us ask, does anyone at Disney actually know how the internet works?
I asked Disney's PR people why the company had made this decision, and the official line was as follows:
Disney+ original series release new episodes weekly, every Friday at 8am GMT. As The Mandalorian is event television, we have released the show weekly in all markets that have Disney+, and we are excited to be bringing this must-see series to UK viewers.
That isn't really an explanation to be honest, because it doesn't explain anything beyond "just cos".
I can understand the logic of wanting to do a weekly release schedule in general, because after several years of Netflix dumping them all in one go I'm completely over seeing a series, waiting 18 months for a new one, and then finding out it got cancelled for no good reason.
After all, weekly stuff can get the wheels of the hype train moving, and in the case of The Mandalorian it meant we got a cliffhanger where Mando discovered Baby Yoda and suddenly the show was everywhere. Had it been released in one go that impact would have been lessened significantly. It would have been a big deal, don't get me wrong (he's a Yoda alien who is a baby, after all), but would it have gone on for another eight weeks? Doubtful. People have short memories, especially on the internet.
The problem is that only works once. You can't call The Mandalorian event television when it's been five months since the show's biggest secret was revealed and spread around the internet like wildfire, nor can you call it event television when other major markets got to see the final episode three months ago. The Mandalorian is out there, but Disney seems completely clueless to the fact that once something is on the internet it belongs to the internet. There's absolutely no getting rid of it, or expecting that people are going to wait.
The Mandalorian is a hit. Baby Yoda 'broke' the internet, as the kids say. Spoilers were everywhere almost immediately because that entire show was meme fodder. Even if people waited patiently to be able to watch the series legitimately, damn near everything will have been spoiled already. Avoiding online spoilers for that long can only be achieved by completely disconnecting from the internet. And that can only really be done if you were able to live without the internet in the first place. Basically there's no mystery in Mandalorian's first season, and without that those eight episodes completely fail to be an "event" and just become a representation of how clueless Disney is making itself look by claiming it is.
And of course there's the obvious point to make. Piracy is rampant on the internet, and as people have said time and time again, anyone who cares about Star Wars has already seen The Mandalorian. As soon as the series premiered it shot to the top of the piracy charts right after the first episode debuted, and winding up in third place in the year's league table of the most pirated shows. Not bad for a series that arrived with little over a month of 2019 left.
And even those who didn't pirate last year, once you have a Disney+ account you could easily grab yourself a VPN and scooch on over to an international catalogue. Be it the USA, the Netherlands, Australia, or one of the others. Guess what they all have? All eight episodes of The Mandalorian - and all the episodes of the ongoing seventh season of Clone Wars as an added bonus.
Disney may have been trying to stop VPN users, but that doesn't mean it has worked.
The only people The Mandalorian's staggered UK release is for are those who aren't really Star Wars fans and would only start watching on a whim. After all it's the flagship Disney+ series right now, and it's going to get a lot of publicity on and off the platform. Will those people be willing to wait several weeks to watch it all, especially when you end on a cliffhanger episode? Maybe, but then again they could find a way to just watch the lot straight away. Because as has been mentioned, the whole series is already out there, and it's not hard to get hold of.
But naturally it doesn't appear as though anyone at Disney has thought of this. Or if they have, they've been overruled by someone who doesn't. Presumably because they think spreading the tentpole series out over six weeks will make people stop subscribing after their free trial is over.
But something tells me that isn't going to work out the way Disney hopes.