Netflix has made a business of “re-run TV” online, and recently jumped into striking a deal for some original programming. But there could also be an opportunity for it to work with broadcast companies to keep low-rated shows with big Netflix fan bases on the air.


Netflix has been extremely successful with an online streaming offering that’s primarily “re-run TV” — that is, later syndicated content that has already run its course on the major cable and broadcast networks. But there could also be the possibility for it to work with broadcast companies to keep low-rated shows that have a lot of Netflix viewers on the air.

Netflix just recently got into licensing original programming, with a deal to gain exclusive rights to the Kevin Spacey-David Fincher project House of Cards. That deal will put House of Cards on Netflix instead of a pay TV network like HBO or Showtime. On its earnings call, CEO Reed Hastings said the subscription video provider could see itself doing a few more similar deals before the program becomes available.

So what’s next for Netflix? With plenty of rerun programming and now some original programming, Hastings said the company could keep some shows that are on the chopping block alive, by working with broadcasters and cable networks. In an interview, MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka asked if it would make sense for Netflix to do so. Hastings’ response:

“Yes. For example, Friday Night Lights wasn’t going to get continued two seasons ago on NBC, and DirecTV did a deal to extend that show. So we can see ourselves doing something like that — extending a season of something that was doing well on Netflix.”

Netflix wouldn’t be the first subscription video service to do so. As Hastings mentioned, DirecTV helped save Friday Night Lights from extinction by making a deal with NBC. DirecTV also picked up the low-rated but critically acclaimed FX show Damages when it was facing cancellation. But DirecTV has decided against doing more show-saving deals in the future.

Keeping an ailing show with a niche audience running could actually make sense for Netflix. Unlike the broadcast networks, Netflix doesn’t depend on ratings from live show airings to appease advertisers; instead, it justifies the cost of licensing through the number of subscribers it has and how often they view the content over the life of the license.

And for the networks, a Netflix deal could provide an additional revenue stream for those shows, which could potentially offer more value than advertising alone. Such a deal could also have the added benefit of boosting viewership during the live airing: Netflix argues that shows with episodes available through its streaming service — like Starz’s Spartacus — pull better ratings as a result. That’s in part because Netflix raises the visibility of those shows, and in part because viewers are able to catch up on shows that they missed through on-demand viewing.

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  1. TimeKeeper Friday, May 6, 2011

    Looks like a revival of Red Envelope Entertainment. They killed this venture back in 2009 as it looked like they were stepping on the toes of their providers. Oh, how things have changed.


    1. @TimeKeeper – They were also losing money on Red Envelope — Hastings said they lost $10 million on it before shutting it down.

    2. Here is my list:
      Rubicon, The Unusuals, BBC Survivors, Stargate Universe, Deadwood, Flashforward and the one where the guy went back to 1974 as a cop in New York!

    1. @TomTom – I don’t claim to be the first to put forward this idea — obviously it’s been floating around for a while (and long before TechCrunch wrote that) … but it was the first time I’ve seen Hastings say it would make sense.

  2. Isabel Monteith Friday, May 6, 2011

    I would watch if you got Flashforward or The Event.

  3. Yes! I’m a subscriber and defiantly would not mind paying a few extra dollars if y’all bought back Flashforward!! :)

  4. Could online providers like Netflix be the future of soaps?

  5. Please, try to save FlashForward!!!

  6. They should be chomping at the bit to pickup Firefly, Stargate, and perhaps Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. Franchises like that have absolutely massive fan-bases that would FLOCK to Netflix BY THE MILLIONS if they resurrected them, even if in limited run seasons (eg 6 episodes a piece).

    1. Me and my friends second, third, fourth, and eleventh this suggestion. The Sci-Fi fan base has taken a beating over and over again, with our shows (be they mildly successful or even well regarded) getting canceled even when they were doing well – mostly because they were deemed “too expensive to warrant production’. Which is malarkey, because they show have known from the start it would be costly. Also, Sci-fi / Fantasy shows tend to have huge fanatical fan base, that literally will eat through merchandise. Netflix has to jump on this, pronto.
      So Say We All.

  7. Scott Jensen Saturday, May 7, 2011

    They bring back Firefly and Special Unit 2 and I will sign up in a heart beat.

  8. Stargate Universe!

  9. Stargatestargatestargatestargatestargate… fingers crossed!

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