Amazon.com’s recent move to revive cancelled British drama Ripper Street (a joint BBC / BBC America production) should be of interest to sci fi fans as it’s possible the streaming service could also eye some previously or soon-to-be cancelled genre shows to add to its original content.
Ripper Street was cancelled last year after airing two eight episode seasons, but apparently the show had developed a loyal fanbase that lobbied for the show’s return via online petitions, twitter, Facebook, and other means. The show’s production company reached out to Amazon and was able to work out a deal to fund another eight episode season, and I’m sure more are possible if that one does well for the service.
So does this mean that Amazon is the new target for “Save My Show” efforts? Can their streaming service revive some cancelled sci fi favorites (all Firefly fans, please take your Valium before proceeding any further) or keep alive one or more struggling shows (Revolution fans, same as above).
The short answer is “it depends” which means that you have to now stick around for the long answer.
With Ripper Street being a BBC production, that means that it was a lower cost series and the eight episode seasons also amount to less of a financial commitment than the typical thirteen or twenty two counts. Of course you are also talking about a smaller audience, but apparently still sizeable enough to interest Amazon. And I’m sure the fan enthusiasm factored into the equation to some extent plus the fact that I believe the production companies that work with the BBC tend to have more control over their properties than those working with the US-based networks.
But all this means that a sci fi series could very well be of interest to Amazon if it fits within their budgetary constraints and if they believe it will draw enough subscribers and/or download purchases. So as an example, Syfy’s recently cancelled Being Human (which coincidentally was adapted from a BBC series) might be a perfect fit. That’s a lower cost series (not taking into account licensing arrangements) and it has decent enough total viewership numbers (on the lower side for a cable series, but still higher than what Ripper Street saw on BBC America). Now series star Sam Witwer indicated that the show is ending as planned (more on that in a upcoming post), so there may not be a desire by the studio to keep it going. But Being Human represents the type of show that I believe Amazon might be interested in.
Other shows that may be a good fit include The CW’s struggling Beauty and the Beast, Syfy’s new entry Helix, cancelled syndicated series Legend of the Seeker, cancelled CW series The Secret Circle. All of these are examples of shows that I believe are relatively low cost and the latter two developed a strong and vocal fan following while Beauty and the Beast appears to have notable international appeal (Helix is too new to gauge at this point).
A bit more of a longshot–though not necessarily impossible–would be a show like NBC’s Revolution. That’s a more expensive entry and its ratings have really sagged since midway through its first season. But then it has a very strong online presence and some big names attached to it like J.J. Abrams and Eric Kripke. Picking up a show like that could be a big media win for Amazon even if it might be stretching their budgetary constraints.
We already know that Netflix is kicking around the idea of reviving Jericho and they also raised their hands to continue cancelled genre shows Terra Nova and The River (though nothing ever happened with those latter two). And since Amazon is in direct competition with Netflix, there’s a good chance they could consider bringing back one or more truncated sci fi shows that they believe would boost their service (don’t say it . . . don’t say it . . . don’t say Firefly). However, I tend to think they are going to think smaller at this point (along the lines of the first four genre examples above) rather than dive headlong into an iffy bigger budget series. And Sarah Connor Chronicle fans should not get their hopes up because that franchise’s studio is going in a completely new direction with the property.
It all depends on what Amazon sees as the return on investment and whether a fan-favorite cancelled property will bring enough subscriptions, download purchases, and/or PR to their streaming service. Netflix’s interest in the high cost Terra Nova indicated that service was willing to take some risks (though admittedly a deal was never reached), so it’s hard to rule out anything at this point. It’s also somewhat early in the game to really make a call. Netflix revived the cult-favorite sitcom Arrested Development and Amazon has picked up Ripper Street, but that is all we have seen in the way of revivals so far. Arrested Development was successful for Netflix, though, and they are working on another season of the show. Plus, the service has indicated a willingness to revive cancelled properties.
It’s hard to say for sure at this point if Amazon will bring back any cancelled sci fi shows, but I would say the possibility is definitely there. The fanbase for genre entries is usually pretty devoted and would almost certainly follow a revival on Amazon (or Netflix). And for fans of shows currently struggling in the ratings (Revolution, Almost Human, The Tomorrow People, Intelligence, Helix, etc.), you may want to consider targeting a campaign toward Amazon or Netflix, because I believe they will at least listen (unlike their networks). There’s all sorts of factors involved, so it’s hard to gauge your chances of success, but it’s worth a try.