Television is a very different experience in the age of video on demand. Even if we’re watching the same kind of content — say, 30- to 60-minute scripted dramas and comedies — we watch it differently. Even if it’s broadcast live (usually through a cable or satellite box) to our television sets or streamed through a game console, media player, set-top box or smart TV interface to that exact same television set, that subtle difference changes everything.
With live television, we flip; with video on demand, we binge. This means that shows have to catch and hold our attention in very different ways — not just over the commercial, but from episode to episode, season to season, and from television to videogames, Facebook, or whatever else might capture our attention on a web-connected device.
Crucially, these differences mean that we gravitate to different content. Many of the most popular, highest-rated shows hold relatively little appeal if seen through a video-on-demand streaming service. The converse is also true; some of the most successful streaming shows (like NBC’s Community) struggle to find a corresponding audience on broadcast television.