It's basically defining them as a long limited series where a 'date certain' is set when the mystery will be answered and the story will come to a resolution. And this date may well be deemed as five years/100 episodes...but let's face it, if the story works best to tell in 2 or 3 years/seasons, why stretch it out? Oh right...no one wants to kill a cash cow if its still drawing viewers and good ad revenue.
The maxi-series concept reflects a push away from the traditional "Run five years and cash in on syndication" model, but so what? The old road to riches is increasingly irrelevant for the aforementioned series, which cash in on DVD and ancillary sales at their peak but whose shelf life is far more limited than repeatable franchises such as "Law & Order" or "CSI."That's a nice counterpoint. And I agree with the article that setting a date certain will 'build' viewers to a big finale as opposed to watching them slowly drift away as they get bored or frustrated.
UK series like 'The Office' or 'Life On Mars' seemed to execute this to some success. Canada also seems to be trying the model out (Across The River In Motor City?). But are these UK and Canadian examples a product of steadfast storytellers? Or producers trying to make the most of small budgets?