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Firefly. Twin Peaks. Veronica Mars. Just a few of the shows that were cancelled "too soon", their fans believe. However, as online streaming sites gain traction with consumers and critics, producers may look to these as opportunities to resurrect one-time hit shows.
Platforms like Netflix, Amazon Video and Hulu, have all played a part in resurrecting at least one beloved show or brand. As these companies look to increase their original programming, could we see cult shows reprising their roles on these sites more frequently?
What cult shows cancelled "too soon" offer is something that new original programming cannot, ARK Invest's head of product development, Tom Staudt explains.
"The main difference is these shows come with built-in fan bases that are known entities. Fans of these (cult) programs are often extremely loyal, and in economic terms have inelastic demand curves. To them, there is not a substitute for the program. "
This fan base therefore can be "very appealing" to online sites, as they look for avenues to attract new subscribers and/or retain existing paying customers, Staudt said.
Investment and a show's success rate is key for both broadcasters and online sites. One challenge facing broadcasters is that if they move a show to a secondary slot, it may impact viewership and therefore continued investment may be difficult to justify.
"A show is a mechanism for delivering advertising impressions, and if it is underperforming, it will generally be replaced with an alternative show," Richard Broughton, research director at Ampere Analysis, suggests.
"Streaming subscription services don't have to make this trade off, having far more 'shelf-space'. The trade-off is much broader for subscription services and revolves around subscriber retention and acquisition instead."
Data is an incredible tool to decide whether cult shows are worth reviving.
"Based on viewership trends while the program was on the air, social media mentions, and other inputs, a platform is able to model a cult show's followers and what benefits it brings to the service from a subscriber standpoint," says Staudt.
"Armed with this knowledge, Netflix (for example) can make decisions about reviving a show relative to what it would cost, and make informed and educated decisions, rather than guesses or gambles."
Of course, broadcast networks aren't immune from reviving sitcoms. Some acquire shows dropped by other networks, while shows that may be cancelled—like Family Guy—are brought back by popular demand.
In addition, as online players become more competitive, broadcasters are competing with their own online subscription services.
"We might start to see broadcasters reviving shows on their own digital services — so as viewing shifts, it will become a more attractive option for shows which are popular, but not performing well enough to keep them in their traditional broadcast slot," says Broughton.
How many people use a broadcaster's subscription site is crucial in this decision, to avoid the risk of jeopardizing their relationship with existing TV customers or the show's commercial success, Broughton adds.
Sometimes TV show revivals return as a movie, however, this may not be desirable for streaming providers as a 'one off' film typically costs more than a series, but the latter could generate more subscribers in the long term.
Crowdfunding may be a preferable approach for this, taking the "Veronica Mars" film as a successful example. However, Netflix helped back the making of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny"; a sequel, but then faced contention with theater firms over distribution.
While streaming sites in general can offer opportunities for TV resurrections, both Staudt and Broughton believe Netflix is leading the way.
"Netflix has made a commitment to gathering data and make algorithmic programming decisions, and has greater viewership trend data available than other platforms," says Staudt, adding that while they have an advantage, it is by no means total control.
"It's fair to say Netflix is leading the trend currently," says Broughton.
"I think overall the economics favor the revival of these (cult) shows on streaming services as opposed to on broadcast channels, and consequently I think that will only continue to increase as viewing shifts further in favor of online video services."
—By CNBC's Alexandra Gibbs, follow her and