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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Lights on for 'Friday Night Lights'

According to Nikki Finke of Deadline Hollywood, the critically acclaimed, ratings-challenged Friday Night Lights will be returning for a third season thanks to a partnership between NBC and DirecTV.

An unnamed insider told Finke that NBC and DirecTV "will share costs and exhibition windows." Apparently, DirecTV plans to use exclusive content, more so than price, to lure subscribers away from cable. DirecTV currently pays the NFL $700 million a year (through 2010) for exclusive rights to broadcast regionally televised games. The 'Sunday Ticket' has worked wonders for the satellite service, luring both regionally displaced and hardcore NFL fans away from cable.

Still this news could be much, much bigger than Friday Night Lights, DirecTV or NBC. Quite often, ratings-starved cult hits enjoy a rabid fanbase more than willing to pony up to save their show. Unfortunately, until now, they've been limited to DVD's (which they'd probably buy anyway) or gimmicky campaigns such as buying nuts (Jericho) or in the case of FNL, mini-footballs.

If DirecTV were to double their service as a 'premium cable net' so to speak, there's a half decent chance we could see a monumental shift in the way TV gets made. I've always said that measuring quantity was a poor fiscal model for television. If I'm willing to actually pay to survive a series like Arrested Development, aren't I more valuable to a network than 5 people who aren't?

When series like Arrested Development, Deadwood, Freaks and Geeks, My So-Called Life, Firefly, Futurama, Sports Night, Dead Like Me, Carnivale, Jericho and Twin Peaks, etc. have such dedicated fanbases doesn't it stand to reason that DirecTV could lure a solid percentage of each fanbase by airing the shows exclusively on their network?

Truth is, we probably won't know for a time and it's too late to save the many brilliant-but-canceled series of our time. But if this new model were to play out, the chance that it could spare the future of quality television from asinine network notes and Nielsen watching -- well let's just say it'd be bigger than a Texas State Championship.

Keywords: Friday Night Lights, Renewed, Renew, Renewal, NBC, DirecTV, Cancel, Canceled, Cancellation, Season 3, Season Three, 3rd Season, Third Season, Arrested Development, Deadwood, Freaks and Geeks, My So-Called Life, Firefly, Futurama, Sports Night, Dead Like Me, Carnivale, Jericho, Twin Peaks

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