It’s been a year since the events of The Good Wife, CBS’ high-profile and critically acclaimed legal drama that put Alicia Florrick in the middle of a political scandal. But The Good Fight isn’t about Alicia, but rather throws Diane Lockhart, Lucca Quinn, and Maia Rendell into a financial crisis that brings them together to a new law firm. This spin-off series locks onto Diane’s story of disarray, allowing the show’s political, financial and socio-economic topical events to fill in the gaps and create the backbone for the narrative.
Now halfway through its first season, the show is nothing short of excellent. Driven by the original Good Wife creators and key cast members, The Good Fight delivers a glossy side story that puts old friends in new odds, which benefits from distinctive new art and photography direction, larger budget and stream-only model to help establish itself as its own IP.
The only way to currently watch the show is by signing up for CBS’ “All Access”, a $5.99 US-centric streaming service that offers The Good Fight as an online-exclusive. Interestingly enough, the first episode of the show actually launched on broadcast television during the same night/time combination as The Good Wife, a prime-time slot aimed at peaking people’s interest and driving them towards the online option for more, even offering the second episode immediately to keep viewers hooked.
The model is on the unconventional side for streaming networks, but a closer look at CBS’ strategy reveals a bigger plan to maximize the show’s potential. The approach is to continue with a heavily serialized television format which borrows heavily from the core matter of a network show but changes the distribution model modernize the affair without advertiser censorship or audience limitations. The Good Fight does count with a 10-episode first season that fits in perfectly with today’s standards for viewership across VOD platforms.
I’ve broken down elements the show shares with network television to understand how it sets itself apart from the traditional binge-friendly Netflix or Amazon offerings.
The first, perhaps most obvious aspect, is that The Good Fight is released every Sunday on CBS-All Access, mimicking The Good Wife’s original timeslot and allowing CBS to recapture that audience. It’s a smart move as most weekly Netflix or Amazon shows tend to be “day-after” shows that are released during the week and this still allows the show to battle other Sunday night dramas on cable TV.
This point ties directly in with the next observation: distribution frequency. The Good Fight is released on a weekly basis that’s unlike anything else on streaming services given those are usually follow-ups to shows that have to contractually be broadcasted on their home networks first. This assimilates the release period to that of its predecessor. The show’s framework so far has been to keep a ‘case-of-the-week’ dynamic with a bigger season-wide arc, meaning the content compliments this format and helps build momentum and excitement towards the next episode, as opposed to a binge-only affair.
On a financial level, CBS access has to prove itself against the competition, and releasing a must-see series that consists for 10 episodes to be consumed within one month doesn’t necessarily instill confidence for users to stick around past that month or even free trial period. Despite this business model, the show does what it does best, creating excitement, building up expectations and allowing cliffhangers to form around different characters’ plotlines. Not to mention the ability to tout weekly big name guest stars, something The Good Wife viewers were used to seeing constantly.
A byproduct of this model is weekly promo videos fueled by social media. No streaming service has been able to build excitement on an episode-by-episode basis by teasing plot twists, scene previews and upcoming guest stars like CBS has been doing with the Good Fight so far. The weekly promos allow those on the fence the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon while establishing expectations for fans already hooked on the show.
The Good Fight’s promos provide previews, reviews, and distribution info
Needless to say, the promo format works particularly well on social media. With such a big push towards video on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as a mobile-first experience, The Good Fight creates bite-sized promo videos that capitalize on this and amplify it through multiple social handles – including The Good Wife’s still active accounts. Network shows have always been smart when it comes to social media, understanding the buzz created in that environment can help drive shows forward and that poking the fan’s egos by liking and re-sharing their posts is an extremely efficient way to maximize word-of-mouth while installing loyalty.
The Good Fight has its very own Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and Facebook accounts where they share critic reviews or blog posts praising the show (for good reason!), promo videos on a bi-weekly basis, teasing upcoming guest stars and reviews, as well as different segments aimed at providing behind the scenes looks at different aspects of the show, such as its fashion, story direction or other inspirations. The network also took to social media to help establish each of the core characters on their own, offering a bio, background story based on The Good Wife and short videos with the core cast, all in the efforts to get newcomers in that haven’t necessarily watched or heard of the Good Wife hooked. In addition to this, The Good Wife’s accounts on the same channels re-share and mimic this strategy, amplifying reach way beyond the show’s new handles it in another attempt to recapture that audience.
All of the above, while well executed, could be seen as the norm for network television’s standards. The most interesting aspect is the fact that the accounts tend to live-tweet the show during its Sunday release day. This is exactly what was done previously with The Good Wife and creates an atmosphere where fans must absolutely watch the show that night to make sure they can keep up and take part in the conversation. Of course, there are some tweets littered throughout the week to keep buzz active, but the fact that this occurs on Sundays is another indicator that this is a network show that allows itself to creatively flourish without all the limitations of what a network show entails.
Upon further reflection, it would seem none of the elements described are surprising – this is a streaming-only show for a network service created by a network. It’s interesting to see how almost no elements from Netflix, Amazon or even Hulu were borrowed for this model. It also goes to show that CBS is willing to take the steps necessary to protect the show creatively. The Good Fight manages to introduce new elements to its formula, such as a cinematic aspect ratio, uncensored dialog, and other glossy production values made viable by a larger budget, without compromising the show’s integrity or abusing any of them for the sake of shock or buzz value. It’s a wholesome package that should be attractive to old and new audiences alike and truly breathes new life into the franchise, and, potentially, the online streaming world.