Fans of irreverent comedy flocked to the stores earlier this week to pick up their copies of the fourth season of the hit series Curb Your Enthusiasm. The DVD set hit retail stores on Tuesday. If that's not up your alley, don't worry. The first seasons of Lost and Desperate Housewives from Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ABC will also be out in a couple of weeks.

Releasing complete seasons of hit shows -- and even some not-so-popular cult programs -- is a relatively new phenomenon. Seinfeld, the wildly successful sitcom that aired on General Electric's (NYSE:GE) NBC for years, didn't hit the DVD market until long after it had completed its celebrated run. However, the times have changed. Now the logical move seems to be to pump out a completed season before the show's next batch of episodes airs in the fall.

Yes, it makes business sense. Strike while it's hot. Aficionados welcome the purchase to relive their favorite moments while the move also allows new viewers to get up to speed with what they may have missed. Nice!

The medium has helped facilitate the process. DVDs are much cheaper to manufacture than were old-school VHS videocassettes. DVDs also hold more content, look crisper, and take up less inventory space.

From a consumer standpoint, what's not to love about the move? Your favorite shows? Commercial-free? On demand? Perfect! But from Hollywood's perspective what's there to like? Not much, when you think about it. Beyond the one-time retail sale infusion for the show itself, we're talking about a trend that is creating a dangerous ripple through the entire theatrical world.

Bellyaching over couch potatoes
Everybody loves to point the finger. Nobody likes to assume the blame. Yet when you connect the dots and wind up with a big, fat circle, something's wrong. Something is really wrong.

Theater operators, suffering through their third straight year of attendance declines, blame the studios for putting out releases too early. So the studios are making a killing in retail, right? No. They're struggling, too. When DreamWorks Animation (NYSE:DWA) and the typically Teflon Pixar (NASDAQ:PIXR) come back with dud quarters because of a high number of unsold DVD returns, there's a problem. Studios will blame the decline on shifting consumer tastes. Struggling video rental chains would bear that out, only they lay the blame on the quality of the studio content. Passing the buck has become a game of hot potato. The thing is, though, that there isn't a winner. They're all wrong.

If the multiplex owner blames the malaise on patrons staying home, then why are restaurants, amusement parks, and retailers showing incremental improvement? If it's the state-of-the-art new television sets that are keeping folks at home for their filmed entertainment, why are the broadcasting network stocks in the dumps? If video rentals are slumping, how do you explain the surge in popularity for Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter recommendation Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX)?

It's a delusional circle, really. The same folks who were blaming TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) for everything short of the weather are starting to doubt their own earlier pontifications. That's why I would love to hear the industry come right out with the one logical catchall explanation: Folks are tweaking their priorities. They are now spending their visual consumption time watching their favorite shows, on their terms and uninterrupted by commercials.

Everybody loves Everybody Loves Raymond
Was it really that hard? Yes, TiVo helped accustom remote-control jockeys to getting what they wanted, when they wanted it. The same can be said about pay-per-view. Now that instant gratification has spoiled the consumption process, how can television shows on DVD not have a dramatic impact on the entertainment industry's other appendages?

If I've got a dozen hours of programming to watch -- or even dozens, in many cases -- that time replaces something. Maybe it's time spent watching prime-time content. Maybe it's the desire to head out to the local movie house. Our pursuit of leisure may be infinite, but the same can't be said for the hours in the day.

This will continue to have a ripple effect in all facets of entertainment. It will make network television even more hit-driven because the time left to absorb new live programming may very well be dedicated to fresh installments of the DVD series hits. New movie releases on DVD will continue to get passed over -- even the titles that folks figured they would bypass at the multiplex and check out later.

That's just the way it is. Everyone can grasp that the advent of satellite radio means that subscribers will spend less time listening to terrestrial radio and more time with Sirius (NASDAQ:SIRI). Why is it so hard to fathom that folks who are gobbling up entire seasons, sans commercials, of their favorite shows will not have any less time to devote to their eyeballs' pursuits?

It's real. It's happening. It's also the kind of industry-altering trend that shapes the future. Every month, I pick apart the latest happenings and investing opportunities in my Early Adopter Roundup column. It's a feature exclusively for Motley Fool Rule Breakers subscribers, and you are welcome to check it out with a risk-free trial offer.

Then again, who am I kidding? Maybe you'll be too busy checking out the latest Larry David antics with your DVD remote in tow. Either way, realize that even the simplest of trends can be a disruptive technology. Don't be the one left behind.

TiVo and Netflix are recommendations in our Stock Advisor newsletter service.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz loves to watch TV, with or without a DVD player in sight. He owns shares in Netflix and Disney. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.