State broadcaster makes bid to hook viewers with blockbuster bulk screening.

TVNZ will trial a binge-watching strategy normally used by pay-for-view broadcasters in a bid to hook viewers into a new drama about marital betrayal and revenge.

BBC smash hit Doctor Foster attracted up to 10 million viewers an episode when the series screened in the UK in September.

Now TV One is banking on gripping a huge Kiwi audience when it starts tonight and runs over five consecutive nights in hour-long chunks. The story follows the heartache of GP Gemma Foster, who sees her charmed life explode when she suspects her husband of an affair.

Gemma Foster and Simon Foster. Photo / Drama Republic 2015
Gemma Foster and Simon Foster. Photo / Drama Republic 2015

Screening the series nightly marks a change of approach to TVNZ's programming strategy and is more in line with that of international broadcasters such as Netflix and SoHo.

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"Binge viewing is obviously a bit of a phenomenon at the moment," Juliet Peterson, network programmer for TV One and pay channels, told the Herald on Sunday.

"It doesn't work with everything but Doctor Foster is the perfect programme to watch night after night. When we first saw it we just couldn't wait for the next episode, and then the next, so we wanted to give our audience the chance to unravel the truth alongside Gemma Foster as quickly as possible, too.

"We wanted to start the year with an event - something to capture our viewers' interest and excite them . . . and Doctor Foster is just the starting point of our new season of fantastic content."

Trisha Dunleavy, associate professor of Media Studies at Wellington's Victoria University, said adopting binge watching tactics was a significant switch in the battle for eyeballs.

"This is certainly a bid to compete with the big streaming companies as usually only reality shows are screened by TVNZ in a multi-night format," Dunleavy said.

"It is the national broadcaster reacting to the likes of Netflix, SoHo and HBO.

Suranne Jones as Gemma in Doctor Foster. Photo / Drama Republic 2015
Suranne Jones as Gemma in Doctor Foster. Photo / Drama Republic 2015

"The old TVNZ would have kept a big series like this back for winter."

Kiwi private detective Julia Hartley Moore has investigated thousands of claims of marital cheating and expects Doctor Foster will be a huge talking point.

She said the series is the most realistic depiction of betrayal she had seen. "Infidelity is something far more common than people might imagine and it wrecks entire families," she said.

"There will be some people watching this at home with their partner who they have been unfaithful to and feeling very uncomfortable about what they are seeing. It is brilliantly done."

Dr Foster TV One, 8.30pm, tonight