Kindle “Singles” are starting to take hold as a viable product for Amazon’s e-reader – shorter than a book, longer than a magazine article, e-reading is creating a market for products that typically would not have had much of a chance. The medium chosen for an artistic piece almost always drives, to some extent, the content – if you want to make a studio movie, it’s pretty much going to be somewhere between 90 and 150 minutes, with a few notable exceptions running longer.
Of course, not all great stories can be told in that amount of time, and not all great movies need to be fleshed out to 90 minutes. The problem has always been distribution – because movies are a fixed price, people have certain expectations when they go to a theatre, and that discourages movies that are either too long or too short.
TV has, up until recently, been the same way – if you want to tell a story, it’d better fit into 22 or 43 minute chunks, and be serialized in such a way that it can last for multiple seasons. The Nielson schedule drove things even more, dictating certain patterns of climax and cliffhanger. That’s why cable and Premium channels have had so much success creating critically acclaimed shows – freed of the traditional Nielson scheduling shackles, they give Game of Thrones a ten-episode arc that starts in April, or another show two 13-episode arcs that air in the Summer and the Winter.
The movement of Netflix into that marketplace could change things even more – the rise of TV content that isn’t really EVER scheduled, so the length and timing can be completely variable. While the 30 or 60 minute episode length will probably drive their early shows out of momentum, I think a time is coming where TVs and movies of all lengths and formats can find an audience via on-demand and web streaming.