'Arrested Development' rises from the dead, heads to Netflix

Jeffrey Tambor, Portia De Rossi, Mitchell Hurwitz, Jessica Walter, Will Arnett, Tony Hale, David Cross, Jason Bateman, Michael Cera and Alia Shawkat attend The 2011 New Yorker Festival: 'Arrested Development' Panel at Acura at SIR Stage37 on Oct. 2, 2011 in New York City.

There were plenty of TV shows canceled in 2006 but no one ever really demanded new episodes or a big screen version of "Joey." Fans of "Arrested Development," however, have never stopped carrying a torch for their beloved sitcom about a dysfunctional family that falls from wealth into a sort of swirling comedic chaos. Now comes news that, yes, "Arrested Development" will be back with an undetermined number of episodes featuring an undetermined roster of the show's stars ahead of a movie that is as yet somewhat undetermined. Hey, fans will take it.

It's an arrangement that may benefit not just the long-suffering fan base but the show and Netflix as well.

"Netflix, as we know, has had quite a difficult time in last few months," says Paul Torre, a professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. "With the price hikes, the spinoff of their DVD service, and then the aborted attempt to spin off their DVD service, their stock price plunged, they lost a million of their customers, and so they're desperately looking around for something to change the conversation."

As for the show's gain, "'Arrested Development' played for three seasons, 53 episodes, had a small but loyal fanbase. They are coming out with a movie in 2013," says Torre. "This deal that was announced with Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment and 20th Century Fox has no specifics. How many episodes are we talking about here? Jason Bateman is on board, but what about the other cast members? We don't know. And then these premiere on Netflix as way to get attention to Netflix, but also to set up the feature film to reinvigorate that fan base for a series that again was popular for three seasons, but was several years back."

We could be seeing more of these deals from Netflix in the future, says Max Dawson from Northwestern University. "As it moves more and more into developing and carrying original content and also as it moves more toward licensing films in that exclusive TV window," he says, "that period when in the past a film might have aired exclusively on HBO for instance, Netflix is trying to get rights to distribute digital content in that window. So I think Netflix is very much positioning itself not just as a kind of a pipe through which you receive content, but actually as a destination on par with an HBO or Showtime."

Dawson thinks there are new models being worked out here. A show doesn't need to be a big network hit to have success. He points to programs like "Friday Night Lights," which was able to have a fifth season thanks to an arrangement between NBC and Dish Network. "These programs that have small audiences," he says, "but audiences that contain within them large numbers of bloggers, TV critics, people with Twitter accounts, people who will take to the Internet and talk about these shows and also talk in many instances in positive terms about the companies that make it possible for them to survive. What Netflix is doing is essentially using the revival of a much beloved television program as a sort of way of reviving its image."

Bold move, Netflix. No one's going to call you a chicken.

Also in this program, Amazon.com will give Prime members a free song if they're willing to wait five to seven days for their packages. Music in exchange for patience.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

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