I was just going to respond to Jim Self's comment here, but then the reply just got longer and longer, and I figured I might as well make another post out of it. We were talking about how, now that Netflix lets people watch television shows however they want, they seem to want to watch them pretty much the way you read a novel.
What I find interesting about this is that people are now consuming other kinds of media in the way they always read books. When you discover a new series of books and love the first one, you immediately go out and get the next, and next, and so on. Now we do it with TV shows.
You know, come to think of it, that doesn't just apply to TV shows themselves: If I really like a show, I'll look for other shows by the same author. Obviously that's been a thing with movies for a while (and certain television producers, like Norman Lear, have always had name recognition), but Netflix makes it so you can click on a name and get the person's other work, just like you can with Amazon or a library catalog. So I wonder if authorship is going to become more important in branding shows--it seems likely that it would, especially as television becomes less focused on mass-market ratings.
So, at least anecdotally, it seems that people prefer to consume lengthy stories all at once. That can cause people to put off a show they'd otherwise watch weekly, though. I keep meaning to continue Breaking Bad now that it's complete, but I never do.
Yeah, I feel the novel form has been around for some time now, and now that they can people are kind of molding television-watching into a video novel, so maybe the format just appeals to our psyches in a way that episodic media does not.
It's definitely a challenge to the industry. One thing I've noticed as I've shifted to Netflix is that, in the past, I might watch an episode of a show and not like it. And then a year or so later, assuming the show was still on, I'd check it out again, sometimes to find that it had improved considerably. Then I'd start watching it regularly.
With Netflix, though, there's no way--a bad first episode or a weak first few episodes, and I'm gone. If it takes a show a season or two to hit its stride, I'll never know, because not only am I not going to sit through all the bad episodes, I'm also not willing to skip the first 20-odd or 40-odd episodes to get to the good part--which is new. Before I didn't feel a need to start at the beginning and watch every single episode, but now, interestingly enough, I do.
So I think that as television shows are consumed more like novels, first episodes will become extremely important, the way the first chapter of a novel (or really, the first chapter of the first novel in a series) is.