Netflix exec explains why they'd never bring back Firefly

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May 3, 2013, 3:16 PM EDT

Why is the streaming giant up for reviving some cult shows, but not others?

In just a few weeks, Netflix will debut the first new episodes in seven years of Arrested Development, the beloved comedy series that garnered much critical acclaim and a rabid cult following during three seasons on Fox, before low ratings led the network to pull the plug. It's perhaps the biggest original programming move the company has made so far, and it's led to quite a bit of speculation about what other shows might be able to come back via Netflix. What about Jericho, what about Twin Peaks, what about Firefly? They're all canceled-too-soon series that have maintained a fandom beyond their short TV runs, and they've all got fans clamoring for a revival. So why wouldn't Netflix want them?

The company's chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, said he's a fan of all of those shows, but here's why he thinks they might never be Netflix Originals, using Firefly as an example.

"Let me give you one broad statement about these recovery shows. In almost every case the cult around the show gets more intense and smaller as time goes by. Arrested Development was the rarest of birds in that the audience of the show grew larger than the original broadcast audience because people came to discover it years after it was cancelled. The Firefly fan is still the Firefly fan from when it was on TV and there’s fewer of them and they’re more passionate every year. Whereas with Arrested Development we’re going to be serving a multiple of the original audience. Any of the other shows we could bring back would be a fraction of the original audience."

While it's certainly true that many cult followings wane with the passage of time, is Firefly really an example of this phenomenon? There's no doubt the fandom is intense, but is it also shrinking, even in the wake of a host of 10-year anniversary events for the show last year, not to mention the ever-rising profile of its creator, Joss Whedon? 

What do you think? Is Netflix right to pass up Firefly (if, hypothetically, they ever have a shot at it) because they don't think the audience is big enough, and is it really true that there are fewer Browncoats in the ranks now than there were 10 years ago?

(Via The Mary Sue)