Kids can be impatient. Viacom (NYSE:VIA), parent company of Nickelodeon, knows all about it. When it slated a new installment in the popular SpongeBob SquarePants animated series for April 13 -- Friday the 13th -- it made sure it was pulling at kids in all directions.

Ads promoted the upcoming show for weeks. Viacom even worked with Burger King (NYSE:BKC) to have show-related toys given out as kid meal premiums. A marathon of SpongeBob cartoons aired in the hours leading up to the prime-time debut of the new "Friend or Foe" episode.

With all the hype, you might think that Viacom would be guarding it closely. The episode could have been tossed back into the vault. Viacom went the other way, though. Just five days later, "Friend or Foe" was available on DVD at retailers everywhere.

Yes, the windows are closing. As media networks push more of their televised content online, audiences expect instant gratification. If you missed Lost on Wednesday, Disney (NYSE:DIS) will stream an ad-supported version of it for free through the next day. You can also buy it through Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to feed your video-enabled iPod.

So if cyberspace is squeezing the window of time between when a show airs and when it can be acquired, isn't it just a matter of time before movie studios follow suit? Movie theater chains don't like it, especially now that they're starting to get their cinematic groove back.

However, movie studios have been pushing for this. It makes financial sense to promote a show and its retail version at the same time, rather than launch a pair of marketing campaigns several months apart. Burger King's kid-meal promotion for SpongeBob is the perfect example; its "Friend or Foe"-themed toys helped promote the upcoming episode earlier this month, and now they help to promote the DVD.

The world may not be flat, but movie release windows are certainly heading in that direction. It may not be long before you buy your popcorn and drink on the way into the multiplex, and buy the soundtrack and DVD on your way out.     

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz did catch last Friday's episode; he realizes that it's only a matter of time before his 8-year-old son asks for the DVD. Rick owns shares in Disney. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.