Cancellation means nothing – Streaming services creating ‘Zombies’

Left and right it is like our prayers have been answered as more and more cancelled television series are coming back from the dead. The days of cancellation being the end of the road for a TV show are in the past and we have OTT video streaming services largely to thank. As the landscape of television changes before our eyes the video streaming services are going by their own rules and profiting from cancelled and old shows and movies.

The streaming media platforms are reviving cancelled television shows and capitalizing on sustained fan interest. It is a genius move on the streaming services’ part. It is simply building on what has already been built except by streaming media platforms that are hungry for exclusive content that is ready-made with built-in fan bases. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and this is no different.

This could perhaps be the most sure-fire way of knowing a show will bring forth viewers. Like eating a bowl of a recently revived breakfast cereal once discontinued, the nostalgia of it alone is enough to draw people in and that could be the key to the success of this model. Stories are repurposed all the time, movies are constantly remade, why not revive a TV show that is well-liked and still has something left to give?

This seems to be the sentiment of many of the OTT players and unlike traditional linear television, streaming TV has the benefit of being able to compress time. Past viewers can re-watch old episodes or skip straight to new episodes and new viewers can binge on a series as if there were no hiatus at all, creating a nearly seamless viewing experience.

Netflix is conjuring the dead in large quantities, leading the way by reviving cancelled television shows and even a movie. Netflix has been busy creating spin-offs, prequel series, remaking series, completing series cancelled without a series finale, and bringing back beloved series. You name it Netflix is doing it and the business model seems to be working.

Netflix’s hit series, “House of Cards” is an adaptation of a BBC mini-series of the same name and it is arguably Netflix’s most successful and popular original series. Netflix revived Fox’s cult hit show, “Arrested Development” airing a fourth season in 2013 with a fifth season reportedly in the works. Netflix took the movie “Wet Hot American Summer” and brought back the star-studded cast from the original film for a prequel series called “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp”.

The highly popular “Full House” is being brought back by Netflix in the form of a spin-off series called “Fuller House” starring some of the original cast members. The comedy series from a Canadian cable channel, “Trailer Park Boys” has been rebooted by Netflix which promises to air two new seasons that have already been filmed and a tenth season is reportedly in development. Reportedly Netflix is also rebooting the WB’s “Gilmore Girls”, partnering up with the show’s original creator, writer and producer for four new 90-minute episodes.

And that isn’t even a full list of all of the Netflix revivals if that gives any perspective of the amount of effort going into this model on Netflix’s part.

Netflix isn’t the only OTT service giving life to cancelled television series. Hulu recently picked up “The Mindy Project” not long after it was given the boot by Fox. Hulu debuted a fourth season of the show last month on the streaming service. NBC’s comedy series Community was picked up by Yahoo and a sixth season of the show aired on Yahoo Screen earlier this year. ABC cancelled its “Manhattan Love Story” after only four episodes aired but Hulu announced it will air the remaining seven episodes of the season beginning in December, giving the series closure if nothing else. Hulu took the same approach for ABC’s other axed rom-com series, “Selfie”, announcing it will air the show’s remaining episodes in the first season. BBC’s “Ripper Street” was cancelled after its second season but picked up by Amazon’s UK division for the third season to be aired through the streaming service first before BBC aired it.

OTT services are posing another threat to pay TV by reviving its dead and showing no signs of stopping, creating an army of zombie shows, brought back to life with a vengeance. Older shows that have been long-dead and are then revived carry with them a large fan base eager to tune in to new episodes of an old favorite. Saving newer shows means fans of the show will switch to watching the service that picks up the show so they can continue watching even if it is just to see how it ends. This model almost guarantees viewers before new episodes ever even air.

Rebooting shows that have or once had a strong fan base is a relatively small risk for OTT services and the reboot can bring with it a huge reward. Judging by the success Netflix has had in the space, reviving old content or saving cancelled shows from disappearing forever is the best way to create new exclusive content without the hassle of creating new shows entirely from scratch, not knowing if the content will attract or retain viewers. Netflix has an impressive catalog of revivals. The line-up is not only strong but it is diverse as well. Netflix is offering a wide selection of revived content from a variety of sources and it is the most popular OTT streaming service out there. Somehow OTT is making it work where TV networks couldn’t. It could be that OTT has less to lose with no precious air time to worry about wasting on a show that doesn’t bring in high ratings. Whatever the case, the method is working, and other OTT players are following Netflix’s model.


This first ran in Rider Research’s Online Reporter.