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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hulu and Netflix Fighting Over Arrested Development

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Wed, Oct 5, 2011 at 11:31 AM

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Look, I still don't think that movie's ever, ever going to happen, but some cheap-and-quick Arrested Development episodes? They might.

So here's an excellent example of how streaming video providers are filling the sort of niche old-school video providers can't: Hulu and Netflix are currently in a bidding war Arrested Development, a show that couldn't succeed on FOX no matter how many chances the network gave it. Via Vulture:

While Fox canceled AD in 2006 because of low ratings, it's had a powerful afterlife on DVD and online, which is why Hulu and Netflix see the value of making more. Insiders familiar with the talks between Hulu and 20th tell Vulture that Hulu has gotten 100 million streaming impressions from Arrested Development clips, episodes, and outtakes since Hulu started in 2008. (A Hulu spokeswoman declined to comment for this story.) And the company doesn't even have exclusive online rights, sharing them with Netflix's streaming service. Clearly both companies think that the one site offering new episodes should prepare for a fan onslaught. (And Netflix — which is already moving into original programming with Kevin Spacey's House of Cards—definitely needs a high-profile deal that will make people forget the price increases that have lost the company 1 million subscribers in the past year. How can a TV geek stay mad at the company that brings back the Bluths?)

This is smart. I'm guessing most Arrested Development fans are like me, and get their TV from... well, not their TV. Which means it doesn't matter if it airs on a network or a cable channel, nor does it matter if they call it a TV series or a web series, nor does it matter if it also airs on TV before or after or while it streams through my laptop or Xbox. For stuff like Arrested Development that'll never achieve mainstream success but will always have a devoted cult following? These sort of delivery mechanisms are perfect.

So perfect, in fact, that it almost makes the idea of an Arrested Development movie make sense. If you can make it for cheap enough, and if you can effectively promote a web- or streaming-only release that keeps people from pirating it, you could make a pretty good argument that an Arrested Development movie wouldn't automatically be a financial failure. Putting one in theaters is a lose-lose proposition, but doing the modern-day equivalent of straight-to-video? That makes the whole thing a lot more feasible.

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