Here’s an interview with the man behind Battlestar Galactica, in which he agrees with his interlocutor that making a “highly serialized” show like BSG, in which it’s easy to lose viewers who miss only an episode or two, and hard to gain new ones because the enormous back-story is daunting to viewers new to the series, is a problem TV can’t solve: it makes for better storytelling, but worse ratings.
But of course Netflix has already solved this problem. And the internet can really solve it: whatever you want, whenever you want it, on whatever device you like, means you can jump into any series at any time in your life. Shows like BSG won’t be judged on their ratings when the show first hits the ‘net — instead, in a trend reminiscent of the behavior patterns you see with downloadable media, peak viewership will be spread across a long period of time, with spikes corresponding with coverage of the series.
Shows will become properties that are continually generating income, spanning years. This happens now, but it’s contingent on releases of DVDs — and not everyone wants a boxed set.
This means that the penalty for creating “highly serialized” narratives will be reduced. Indeed, the whole equation might be flipped on its head — individual hit shows in properties that aren’t serialized will be nice, but for a network to have a steady stream of income, they’re going to need more serialized shows, not fewer.