This is an article in the Wall Street Journal about how streaming video is changing viewing habits. Turns out, if you make a television show more like a novel, people treat it like a novel!
The urge to sustain that inner experience leads you to press "play" on the next episode, and the one after that—the equivalent of the book you can't put down.
But that's not the only similarity--there's a lot of parallels on an industry level. As we're seeing with e-books, people are rediscovering old titles. 24, Lost, and Prison Break are all popular on Netflix, and of course they're bringing back Arrested Development.
This is a big change for television. The way you used to watch old shows was in syndicated reruns, which worked better with stand-alone shows. (Law & Order was developed specifically so that it could be broken into two 30-minute shows for syndication.) Streaming, however, turns all that on its head.
As with the company's other original series, all 10 new "Arrested Development" episodes will go up for streaming at the same time. [Show creator Mitch] Hurwitz is sure some fans will devour the entire five hours in one sitting. "It's throwing me," he says.
His solution was to build each new episode around one character. The stories in all 10 episodes unfold simultaneously, overlapping here and there. Unlike writing a traditional sitcom, Mr. Hurwitz says, "we're sort of driving into the next episode rather than wrapping things up."
It also means that people aren't necessarily watching the ads, which is seen more as a problem in the industry. But just like with e-books, the fact that television shows don't "expire" any more allows an audience to build in a powerful way.
In a speech [Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted] Sarandos made in April to the National Association of Broadcasters, whose members worry that services like Netflix are cannibalizing the audience for ad-supported TV, he joked about looking for a trap door under his podium. He then cited the 800,000 subscribers who watched "every minute" of "Mad Men" season four on Netflix, arguing that those viewers likely flocked to the season-five premiere on AMC, whose audience grew by 21% over the year before.
AMC President Charlie Collier says, "With 'Mad Men' and 'Breaking Bad,' each year has been better [in the ratings] than the year prior, and that's not the norm in historic TV-watching trends."
In addition, weird shows are building audiences. Two notably "sticky" shows (i.e. shows where people tend to watch all the episodes) on Netflix are an Australian drama (McLeod's Daughters) and a South Korean soap opera (Shining Inheritance).
(And the fact that Netflix knows all that about viewing habits reminds me of how your e-book knows how you read it....)