Periscope Depth

the economics of niche programming

New post on Overthinking It examining the difficulty – and success – that smart TV has in finding an audience.

Battlestar Galactica is set in a universe that, confusingly, looks a lot like 21st century Earth, only with starships. But it’s not Earth. In fact, it’s the last survivors of a genocide, who are fleeing across the galaxy to Earth. They’re pursued by robots that either do or don’t look like humans, depending on which ones you encounter. In the close quarters of a huge ship, they deal with intertwining personal relationships, political tension and questions of identity. Oh, and there’s mysticism at play as well.

(And that’s just the first two seasons – when it was still making sense)

That’d be a hard novel to sell to an audience of sci-fi fans, much less a television series. And yet it found a devoted group of followers, critical acclaim and pop culture presence for four seasons on the Sci-Fi Channel.

So why did BSG succeed when Firefly failed? Why is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia entering its seventh season when Arrested Development struggled for three? What’s the element that those successful shows had in common?

(Credit to Sylvia for giving me the frame story – Netflix’s entry into producing a TV series – that tied it all together)

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