Reboot Fever Brings Opportunities for Studios

In light of the relative ratings success of Fox’s reboot of The X-Files, MyNetwork TV, which airs on Fox-owned duopoly stations across the country, next fall will double-run the original series one night a week. It’s an opportunity to exploit library product that probably never would have come up had the reboot not happened, and worked.

The X-Files is such an iconic series that now is the perfect time to make it part of the MyNetwork primetime package,” says Paul Franklin, Twentieth Television executive VP/general sales manager, broadcast. “We saw an opportunity to get it in front of a new generation of viewers and thought this was the time to strike.”

Twentieth also is taking the show back out to TV stations for weekend runs, beginning this fall.

“I watched a bunch of original X-Files episodes, now in high-definition, and it didn’t feel dated at all. The writing is great and the stories are timeless,” says Frank Cicha, senior VP, programming, Fox Television Stations.

Whether or not MyNetwork’s play will prove successful remains to be seen, but it’s a seemingly low-gamble concept: Take an old show, make it new again and then run the original back through the monetization cycle. It’s a scenario that’s playing out across the TV landscape, with such shows as Full House and Gilmore Girls going back into production with original cast members and other potential reboots—such as Fox’s 24 and Prison Break—in the works.

One huge advantage shows like these have is that viewers already know what they are, which makes marketing them that much easier. Says Cicha, “You don’t have to explain what the show is to anybody and that is as important as anything.”

The update of ’90s sitcom Full HouseFuller House—dropped in full on Netflix on Friday, Feb. 26. Before it even premiered, the new iteration of the old show had received tons of attention in the press and on social media, with fans eating up every piece of promo material that Netflix released along the way. The new version of Gilmore Girls, which also is being produced by Netflix, hasn’t been scheduled for air yet, but there too fans seem to be hanging on every new piece of news related to the reboot.

Gilmore Girls is a perfect example of a company with a lot of access to viewer data—which Netflix has even if it doesn’t release it—using that data to determine what sort of programming it should produce. Netflix started airing the series last Oct. 1.

“There are certain shows that audiences, especially on the younger end, respond to in a dramatic way,” says Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. “It performed amazingly once they put it on.”

The case of Fuller House is different. Full House currently airs in syndication on Viacom-owned Nick at Nite. The network is definitely taking advantage of the buzz around the remake, airing Full House in two-to three-hour blocks of several episodes. Nick at Nite also has rights to Warner Bros.’ Friends, another sitcom that went to Netflix in a deal that surprised the industry when the entire library went to the streamer for $100 million-plus.

Until that point, most industry observers thought there was no place for veteran sitcoms on streaming services. People didn’t think audiences would binge them, and didn’t think younger audiences would be interested in older shows. They were wrong.

Friends has gained new popularity since coming to Netflix on Jan. 1, 2015, with younger audiences tuning in and then watching all 236 episodes.

Friends simply offers timeless storytelling in terms of the relevance of the situations and of the characters,” says Werner.

While it’s unlikely that the Friends cast and crew will reunite a la Gilmore Girls, a surprise benefit of licensing Friends on Netflix has been that, with the new generation of viewers discovering the show, they’ll stop to watch if they happen upon it in broadcast syndication or on cable.

“It’s a virtuous cycle,” says Werner. “We’ve been judicious in the way we approached the marketplace, and embraced these new platforms as a way to reintroduce audiences to some of our classic shows. In terms of the linear world, it has had a beneficial effect.”

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.