TV Shows Find Second Life With Cable, Online

Cancelled and discarded TV shows are finding new homes on cable TV networks and online digital streaming services. A case in point is Disney’s (NYSE:DIS) “Pan Am,” an airline drama that aired one short season on ABC before being canceled. Disney is reportedly in talks with distributors to keep the show going through other media channels.

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Actually, it’s all about cost-benefit. The recipients gets a show that has already been marketed, has brand consciousness, and comes with a built-in audience.

Digital streamers like Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) have another advantage – they have excellent subscriber data to assess whether a potential show could succeed online. The data also provides them with a shrewd idea of the price of the show, which could guarantee a good return on investment. That adds bargaining clout. For example, Netflix could confidently order a new season of “Arrested Development” based on the viewer data for previous episodes watched by subscribers using the streaming service.

Streaming video’s capacity to attract advertising dollars has also drawn attention to junked shows from online biggies such as Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), and Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO).

“The problem, if you’re a Google or a Yahoo, is you don’t have Netflix’s rich data to know the true interest of a show,” says Tony Wible, an analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia. “Nielsen only gives you a snapshot, and obviously the show was canceled because of that. You’d need another data point that proves the show is going to pay for itself.”

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