Why Canceled Shows Can’t Always Be Saved By Netflix

Hannibal - NBC

Source: NBC

It’s a question that follows every cancelation on network television: Can it be saved by Netflix, Hulu Plus, or any number of other online streaming services? Years ago, when a show went off the air, it was gone forever. No appeals process, no hope for a future. Just gone. But with the rise of alternative platforms, initial cancelation is no longer a death knell, something we see every time a cult-favorite with a tragically small audience gets the ax. Success stories like Community (NBC to Yahoo! Screen) and Arrested Development (FOX to Netflix) have shown the staying power of shows whose fans can make enough noise.

For every success story though, there’s one of a show that lasted all of one season, received a groundswell of support for a Netflix resurrection, but still couldn’t find a new home. It can be difficult to comprehend the “why” of it all, especially when it seems like a simple enough process to pick up where a network left off, with a fully built story, cast, and creative team in hand already. Even so, there’s a laundry list of reasons why a seemingly well-supported show doesn’t find life after death in the world of streaming.

First off, the cost. In order to take a recently canceled show, someone like Netflix, Hulu, Yahoo!, or Amazon needs to be willing to front a whole lot of money. Most of your favorite shows cost anywhere from $5 to 10 million per episode. Extrapolate that out over a full season, and we see that it’s not quite as easy as simply agreeing to pick up the slack. This budget includes things like finishing out the contracts of the cast and creative team, as well as various production costs. And all this doesn’t even include the up-front pricetag of buying out the rights to the show in the first place, which can run in the hundreds of thousands per syndicated episode.

The second huge factor to consider: Time commitments. The most talented writers and actors in television often have dozens of projects and offers in the pipeline, and even a few months of waiting in cancelation limbo can lead to them signing on to a new series or movie. The saga of Hannibal is a great example of this too: Following it getting cut by NBC, the contacts of lead actors Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelson expired, and they immediately began fielding other offers. In the meantime, showrunner Bryan Fuller committed fully to his role on the TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, making it so any reboot on Amazon (the current syndication rightsholder for Hannibal) would have to wait at least a year for Fuller to free up.

It’s easy on the fan side of things to see a cancelation and not understand the complexity of porting a network show over to a brand new home. As it if often is in most Hollywood projects, there are hundreds of moving parts that all need to fall into place before someone like Netflix can bring a series back from the dead. It takes time and money to set up a brand new infrastructure for a show in limbo, and more often than not it’s far more complicated than simply copy-pasting everything on to a streaming platform.

That’s not to say that it’s impossible to rescue a canceled series. If the last few years have shown us anything, it’s that it’s entirely possible to raise a fallen series. It’s just important to understand that it doesn’t always work out the way we expect. What the next resurrected show will be is beyond us, but at the very least we know it’s not always easy.

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest

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