I read a very interesting article from Reuters the other day. The piece had this question to ponder: Do serialized shows -- i.e., ones which finish with a teasing cliffhanger -- work with viewers, or do they tend to fill the eyeballs with resentful anger? To me, there's value in leaving a little tease at the end of an episode. It instills within viewers a sense of desire to keep watching. It's hard to believe that they feel cheated when they experience a cliffhanger (although a friend of mine did feel a bit disgruntled at the end of Back to the Future II).

I believe -- and I'm sure I'm not the first to suggest this -- that networks should embrace the serial concept and even purposely encourage viewers to pay for wrap-ups. Just design a series to be limited in nature (think Sci-Fi Channel's Taken and Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) TNT channel's Stephen King anthology Nightmares and Dreamscapes) -- and end it with a cliffhanger. Then invite the viewer to see how things turn out via one of any number of methods -- download to a video iPod, download from the Net, pay-per-view, etc. (Heck, maybe they can even burn a DVD of the resolution.)

After all, if the media companies are exploring new distribution methods that leverage whatever latest technology is out there, shouldn't they seek out some synergy? They have already been experimenting with new ways to get content to the consumer: streaming video, services such as MovieLink and CinemaNow, on-demand video, and others. Not only is the technology changing, but the variables of distribution are also being altered, as companies consider repeating TV shows shortly after they've first been aired and try either selling them or using advertiser support.

In addition, there's a cost savings to such a paradigm. If a network makes a twelve-episode series, ends it by placing the final twelfth show on broadband download, and then moves on to the next limited-series concept, it could likely eliminate costly increases in terms of talent. It's like Viacom's (NYSE:VIA) MTV channel, which constantly moves to the next series to keep things cheap and keep the flow of talent moving.

All shows shouldn't be like this, of course, but at least part of a programming portfolio could reflect this strategy. If companies like CBS (NYSE:CBS) and General Electric's (NYSE:GE) NBC Universal want to compete with basic cable channels and gain viewership at premium subscription levels, they must be willing to innovate. Shareholders of these large media conglomerates should ensure that these companies are continuing to look for new strategies to increase subscribers, as well as maintain the stickiness of their shows. A pay-to-watch cliffhanger resolution could be just one way to cement the ties between viewers and the companies themselves.

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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of Disney and General Electric. The Fool has a disclosure policy .