So Lifetime just announced the cancellation of their supernatural series Witches of East End, and after the states of shock and denial have passed for the fans, the inevitable “Save My Show” campaign will follow. So what can the fans do to either convince Lifetime to change their decision (they did that several years ago with Drop Dead Diva) or to get the show picked up by another venue? (And listen up as well fans of cancelled shows Star-Crossed, Dracula, Revolution, Almost Human, etc. along with struggling shows The 100, Haven, Forever, Resurrection etc. because this can be useful information to you.) There are good options and bad options here, and I’m going to start with the direction I think Witches of East End fans should go first and then continue with some other options as well.
You can scream and yell all you want about these cancellation decisions and decry that the Nielsens do not accurately reflect a show’s audience (and I will agree with you on that point). But if you want to really get the network listening to a campaign to convince them to un-cancel a show or pick up one that another net has axed, you have to appeal to the bottom dollar. I have said it before and will say it again, the networks are businesses and need to make a profit to survive, so convince them that the show they have given up on can in fact be make money for them.
Along these lines, there is a strategy I have suggested before and I still believe it offers one of the best options to keep a cancelled show alive. That is to pre-fund another season through subscriptions. Currently, Amazon offers Season 1 of Witches of East for purchase via download/streaming at $15.99 SD / $23.99 HD and Season 2 is $21.99 SD / $31.99 HD. So if the network (or studio) would set a minimum number of pre-orders for a third season at around the same price (or maybe a bit higher) would fans of the show pony up the money to get that made? The answer from Star-Crossed, Dracula, and Revolution fans was a resounding yes, and I’m thinking the same in this case (cast your vote on what you would be willing to pay in the poll below). The network or the studio could do this like a Kickstarter campaign where it accepts the pre-orders and if the sales reach the threshold they set then the next season gets made. This helps cover the cost for what the show has not been making up in advertising revenue and appeals to the bottom line because the fans are willing to invest upfront in the show that they love. The hitch here, though, is that fans need to convince the network and/or studio to agree to this approach, and since it is a new, untested idea there is typically some reluctance toward blazing new paths. I know that fans of Star-Crossed, Dracula, and Revolution tried to drum up interest for their shows, but with little success. But there is a potential strategy to get the network/studio to perk up and listen to this idea.
That would be to target a campaign toward one episode of the series and get fans to buy that up en masse from Amazon, iTunes, and any other (legal) service selling the episode for download/streaming. On Amazon, the episodes run $2 to $3 and I believe iTunes is about the same. Pick one episode, maybe the pilot or the second season debut, and get fans to focus on buying that one. Pick a time frame of maybe one week so that there is a definite spike in sales. Let the network/studio know what you are doing and why, and also get the word out to the entertainment press. Then start buying. It won’t cost any one fan more than a few bucks, but if you get enough involved and get the word out, the revenue from that campaign could help sway the network/studio over to the pre-funding idea. It’s worth a shot, it won’t cost too much, and I think that an active fanbase like the ones that follow Witches of East End could have success with it. And if the episode targeted in the campaign gets enough sales, that could really interest the network/studio in trying the pre-funding approach.
The next option (which should be concurrent with the above initiative) would be to try and convince one of the streaming services that it is worth their while to pick up the show. And for Witches of East End, which was likely produced on a modest cable budget, I would think it would be a viable option for either Netflix or Amazon (Hulu, on the other hand could probably only afford lower budget productions). Witches of East End fans proved themselves very active on the social networks this past Summer (handily pushing their show to the top spot in our Summer Sci Fi TV Pulse poll), and they should be able to rally the troops to get #RelocateWoEEtoNetflix/Amazon trending (Feel free to improve upon that hashtag phrase). However, last season’s cancelled shows didn’t have too much luck with that even though I also considered Star-Crossed, Dracula, and Almost Human to be viable candidates (Revolution was not impossible, but was likely too expensive). But it is definitely worth a shot and Netflix has indicated that they will consider saving cancelled shows. Fans can also target another network and try to convince them to pick up the show, but I have seen little success with that over the last few years.
Another option–and one that also appeals to the bottom line–is to reach out to the sponsors. Fans of NBC’s Chuck did this when that show was struggling in its third season and they started going en masse to Subway and buying sandwiches to demonstrate their support. That got the sponsors attention and Subway became an official supporter of the show helping it to continue for another season and a half. Witches of East End fans who have this past season on DVR may want to look through several episodes and see if there are some consistent sponsors. Then maybe target them (and be sure to let them know what you are doing) and start buying their products as a show of support. It may all seem rather mercenary, but it’s a viable way of casting a vote in this free market system.
Then there’s always the letter/email campaign and the online petitions which might work well to start rallying the troops. And there’s Twitter and Facebook and other social network sites where the fans can make noise and get the show trending. Those are a good start, but rarely do much to change a network’s mind (fans of Star-Crossed, Dracula, Revolution, Almost Human, and other shows are still at it with little success). Then there are the campaigns that send some sort of item to the network to demonstrate the fan support for the show (nuts for Jericho, Tabasco Sauce for Roswell, Daisies for Pushing Daisies, etc.) or the campaigns that take out adds to bring attention to the show. On these last two, I would urge the fans to please, please not waste your money because it is usually a lot of dollars thrown into efforts that rarely move the networks (Jericho did get a second season, but only seven episodes and it was cancelled again after that). If you want to spend money, then spend it in a way that appeals to the bottom dollar and gets the network/studio interested.
Once a show has been cancelled, it’s an uphill battle to change the its fate. And I was surprised about the Witches of East End announcement because I thought the show was doing okay. But the fans have options and plenty of ways to make their voice heard and to prove a show can be profitable. Fans of this show have a crusade ahead of them but one that I believe is winnable.