Why do TV shows have mid season breaks?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: August 16, 2022 (Last updated: December 14, 2023)
tv show paused

Have you ever found yourself at home at night with nothing to watch but repeats of programmes you’ve previously seen? You’re not alone in this.

The reason for the unruly halt for these shows is something that many people are unaware of. The assumption that networks would wish to have shows running constantly is mistaken. The foundation of all network production is one thing: numbers.

Depending on the start date, episodes would finish abruptly without the mid-season break, which would cause the show to miss the spring sweeps.

Sweeps are when all of the television networks count how many people watch the show. This figure is the essential selling point for advertisements and the main determinant of whether a show will “sink or swim” and ultimately end up on the air.

Why do American TV shows take breaks mid season?

Series frequently feature extra content, such as guest stars, contentious and surprising in nature, extended episodes, and finales, when they return from a break in time for the sweeps season in order to get high ratings. Television shows typically take a break for the US holidays in late November, December, and early January, or throughout the summer if the season does not conclude before, before returning at a later date, usually in mid-January for Christmas and New Year’s and in September for the summer.

The Major League Baseball playoffs in October and other numerous ceremonial awards in March may all see a spike in pauses in the USA. The American mid-season break typically begins at Thanksgiving in late November and can last until the Super Bowl in late January or early February.

Mid season break TV shows

Netflix was the first platform to batch-release full seasons of new content. It’s a tactic that works well for dominating social media trends over the course of a weekend, but fails miserably when you want people to enjoy new releases and talk about them for weeks on end. With the final seasons of Money Heist and Ozark, the streaming service might have its cake and eat it too. The months-long gap between Parts 1 and 2 allowed viewers to binge-watch the newest episodes while still keeping these series in the public eye.

The latest Netflix series to keep fans on their toes was of course Stranger Things. As Netflix’s most watched original series we can almost guarantee a mid-season break wasn’t going to put viewers off, in fact it was the opposite, it caused a mass media hysteria. 

Stranger Things Season 4 has been a record-breaking success for Netflix, with the first episode of the current season having the most hours seen in a weekend launch for a streaming series at an amazing 286.79 million. Volume 2 of the season maintained this phenomenal popularity, and upon its Friday morning release, complaints of problems reached over 13,000 people. As a result, many Netflix users were unable to access the service.

UK series

You may have noticed that UK TV shows rarely take a mid season break, in fact, the series will usually be a lot shorter, so there’s simply no need to take a break for production purposes. 

The majority of American television programmes are developed in writers rooms by teams of writers working for a “showrunner.” Even if every room is a little different, they typically collaborate to determine the overarching plot and the essential elements of each episode before assigning different people the primary responsibility of writing each one.

It is considerably more typical to see a series written by just one or two persons in the UK, where a season may only consist of 4–8 episodes. The UK also generally has longer episodes than US series. Although not all British television programmes have this tendency, many dramas, especially dramas, have extraordinarily extended episodes when compared to American television. The majority of US television programmes last 20 to 25 or 40 to 45 minutes. There are numerous shows with 60-90 minute episodes in the UK.

Midsomer Murders is a prime illustration. Every episode, which functions more or less like a movie, was shot in a different location. Compare that to something like a 20-minute American sitcom, when most of the time the filming takes place on the same set.

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Frustrated that your favourite TV show is on a mid season hiatus? Trust us, we feel your pain. That’s why our critics here at Ready Steady Cut are on hand to fill the gap with all the latest TV show reviews which are trending right now on every single streaming service. There’s no need to wait an agonisingly long time for your favourite show to come back, we can recommend a bunch of series we think you’ll love based on what you’re already watching!