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3rd Story
Fans turn to Net to keep shows on air

Fans turn to Net to keep shows on air

Many pundits called the Internet the killer of traditional TV, but fans continually turn to it in attempts to keep their favourite shows on the air.

In a recent example, people are even trying to use the Net to bring back a long gone sci-fi favourite. In an Entertainment Weekly interview, former "Firefly" star Nathan Fillion, now on "Castle" with Stana Katic, said "If I got $300 million from the California Lottery, the first thing I would do is buy the rights to 'Firefly,' make it on my own, and distribute it on the Internet."

This off-handed quip has sparked fans of the show, which aired 14 episodes in 2002, to create the Help Nathan Buy Firefly website (which sought pledges) and Facebook page. As of mid-day March 4, the Facebook page had 113,108 "likes." Will this effort help bring back the space western that was created by Joss Whedon of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" fame?

While it seems unlikely, Internet campaigns have been credited with saving – or at least extending – some television programs. Reportedly, an online petition helped NBC opt not to cancel high school football drama "Friday Night Lights" in 2008 and seek partnership with DirecTV. The series, starring Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, will air its fifth and final season on NBC this spring, with episodes that have already been shown on DirecTV.

As well, online campaigns have been credited with bringing back "Jericho" for a second season and "Arrested Development" for a third. In a successful attempt to keep the spy dramedy "Chuck" on the air, veteran TV scribe Kath Skerry changed her blog name from GiveMeMyRemote to GiveMeMyChuck. Her work promoted other writers to blog and send Twitter tweets about the show, which helped
its ratings.

However, online campaigns were unable to save such shows as "Moonlight", "Lipstick Jungle", "Deadwood" and, in the early days of Internet campaigns, "My So-Called Life." Regarding the effort to revive "Firefly," of which repeats are being aired on the Science Channel, some wonder if it is worth the effort.

On the Movie Line website, S.T. VanAirsdale wrote, "I hate to break this to you — there are far worthier uses of your money than reviving a cancelled TV show." He suggested, for example, helping victims of earthquakes in New Zealand and Haiti.

While the success of online petitions is up for debate, so is whether the Internet is hurting TV. In the third quarter of 2010, SNL Kagan reported that U.S. cable operators lost 741,000 basic cable customers. This is the biggest decline in 30 years. In the same time period, the pay TV sector, including satellite services, lost 119,000 customers. Some feel that people are "cutting the cord" in favour of lower priced and more flexible online options such as Hulu and Netflix.

Philippe Dauman, president and chief executive of Viacom, for one, points to the recent economic downturn as the reason for the decline. He is optimistic for the future of television.

"I think there's much ado about very little in terms of all the talk about cord cutting," Dauman said in a Nov. 29, 2010 ThirdAge.com article. "And as the economy recovers we expect to see the number of television subscribers in the U.S. grow at a better clip than it has over the last year and a half or so."

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