According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, only 46 percent of adults aged 18-36 are subscribed to a cable TV service. With streaming apps such as Hulu, Amazon Video and, of course, Netflix on the rise, young people tend to forget that their favorite TV shows are backed by something much larger than the streaming service: a cable network.
Lately, a lot of beloved shows have been doing a network switch. Netflix has acquired Fox’s “Lucifer” after the show was cancelled, “Project Runway” is going back to Bravo after Lifetime picked it up in 2008 and NBC saved “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” just one day after Fox announced its cancellation.
These switches aren’t exactly something new — see “Community,” “Arrested Development,” “The Mindy Project” and even “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” All of these shows changed networks in years past.
However, viewers might have seen an uptick in deals like these. Just yesterday, “Modern Family” creator Steven Levitan and “Family Guy” funnyman Seth McFarlane both threatened to take the shows off of Fox’s roster because of the network’s (obvious) association with the very controversial Fox News network.
So, what does this mean for the shows that have left their network or might do so in the future? It can mean a lot of different things. Essentially, the show’s original network decided to cancel it for whatever reason. Another reason could have been because the ratings weren’t high enough, disputes among coworkers or, in the case of “Roseanne,” the show was giving the network bad press.
Once a show enters this state of limbo, one of two things can happen. The most likely and common option is that the show is simply gone (R.I.P. “Freaks and Geeks” and “Firefly,” you both deserved better). For the showrunners, writers and actors, all hope seems to be gone unless the light of a different network shines through.
If another network decides to pick up a cancelled series, a whole new ballgame starts. A lot of the time, the situation works out well for those who work on the show and for the fans; “The Mindy Project” is a great example of this. Fans still loved the show when it was in Hulu’s hands, and the switch gave Mindy Kaling more time to finish the story she started.
“Community” is an example of a show that fared less well. After a long back and forth with NBC and flip-flopping showrunners, NBC cancelled the sitcom, which was then picked up by Yahoo! for a sixth and final season. At that point, the show had already lost both Donald Glover and Chevy Chase, and although the critics liked the sixth season just as much, the change was a weird transition for fans.
In essence, it’s impossible to know what will happen to a beloved show after a network switch, but to many fans, it’s better than the alternative of full-on cancellation.