The rise of streaming has brought a massive change to the TV landscape over the last decade. We have gone from an original series from Netflix being a novelty to a huge chunk of Emmy nominations hailing from one of the many streaming platforms around today. While the oldest of the streaming giants—Netflix and Hulu—have the most accolades to their name, the market has been blown wide open as streaming has become a more popular way to consume media.
As newer competitors like Disney+, HBO Max, and Paramount+ have entered the scene, they needed something to hook consumers in a way that no other service could. With so many streamers to choose from and hundreds of shows premiering every year, everyone has to make their mark. Ironically, these efforts were all drawn from the same idea: slamming defibrillator paddles on a sleeping franchise to draw in its specific fanbase, i.e. recognizable library content. And they have it, buried amid their massive studio IP. If it has felt like every other show in existence is some sort of reboot, revival, or spinoff, it is because they are. There has been a significant increase in these productions in both the animated and live-action realm. And that influx of nostalgia-based programming is not going to slow down any time soon.
In a general sense, not all reboots and revivals are the load-bearing walls for the streamers they call home. Fuller House came three years after Netflix had established a solid slate of original programming across countless genres—a smart move as their library of bread-and-butter comfort watches (The Office, Friends, Parks and Rec, and more) were set to start disappearing as other studio-based streamers began to rise and reclaim them. Sure, people were starting to lose out on the ability to binge their favorite shows for the hundredth time, but they were getting the chance to see other shows they loved get a new life. Starting an original series is a gamble, but a revival potentially offers the same comfort a legacy series did—and that can keep subscriber numbers flowing.
Though Netflix is losing their stronghold on subscribers for the first time in its history, and they seem to love to cancel things at random, their original content library is still mostly original. Of course, Netflix kicked off its streaming era reviving canceled series from other networks, like FOX’s Arrested Development. Since then, the strategy has shifted, as revivals of old TV shows and movies have been eclipsed by adaptations of books or comics, as well as shows that are purely original, plus a vast catalog of international imports. The Netflix Originals brand is solid; we associate it with Stranger Things and Orange Is the New Black well before a revival like One Day at a Time. It is not that revivals or reboots on Netflix can’t stand on their own, it’s that they don’t need to. Netflix has the advantage of being first to the streaming race and while that means that it must work hard to not lose more subscribers, it does not have to do the legwork all the new kids do.
But elsewhere, on streamers run by studio conglomerates, the focus on IP is king. Paramount+ is a prime example of how a newer streamer leaning on reboots and expanding on franchises can work well. At its core, Paramount+ is a vehicle for Star Trek and all its new television properties. Back when it was still CBS All Access, the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery created a massive boom in subscriptions that was only exceeded by the Grammys and live sporting events. The pattern continued with the Season 2 premiere of Discovery, and the show’s success is a clear factor in the creation of the rest of Paramount+’s Star Trek originals. Of course, Paramount+ has the advantage of having the entirety of the Star Trek back catalog, making it the perfect environment to bring a new generation to the franchise while catering to the older fandom. But unlike Netflix, there is no large safety net of originals for the service to fall back on. Outside of Star Trek, the only shows still running that have made it past the 2-season mark are The Good Fight—which is set to end this fall—and iCarly, a spin-off and a revival, respectively (Evil is currently airing its third season, but originally aired on CBS’s broadcast network). These reboots and expansions are the only truly consistent thing about Paramount+’s originals, and that would not be true if the rest of the offerings carried the same weight.
Still, there is a reason we are all so tired of the shows we love (or hate) coming back for a Round 2 we never imagined or asked for. HBO Max has rebooted Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars for the modern age even though their predecessors were off the air for less than a decade when the new series were pitched and optioned. The same can be said about the upcoming Criminal Minds revival; after ending in 2020, a new series was already in development at Paramount+ by 2021. Beyond pumping out Marvel and Star Wars content, Disney+ has released a plethora of revivals, reboots, and spinoffs of older properties in the land of television and movies. They certainly do not need them to survive like Paramount+ does, but High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and Mighty Ducks: Game Changers serve as a part of that steady pillar of nostalgia content on the platform.
Regardless of what audiences want, the entertainment industry has made its preference clear. Everyone wants a piece of the streaming boom, and with Netflix’s downturn signaling that the golden days might be over, it would not be surprising if we continued to see reboots and revivals filling out the landscape. Looking at things in a financial sense, it is easier to convince network executives that a reboot of Frasier is a good idea than something original and more creative—with over 700 scripted series debuting, familiarity catches attention. Bringing something back means that there will be a built-in audience, an already-owned IP, and (in theory) a formula that can still be successful. A League of Their Own is a recognizable title, and even though it’s actually good, it’s likely that Amazon’s Prime Video took that legacy aspect into account before anything else when they greenlit the show. HBO Max’s And Just Like That may have fallen flat, but Sex and the City’s loyal fanbase engaged with it enough for a renewal.
At the end of the day, that kind of name recognition is what pays the bills for streaming services, and it means that we might be seeing even more properties get a second life than ever before.They may not be original in the strictest sense of the word, but they’re enough to bring in new cash and attention. The real question is how long that trend will last—or how much longer streaming services can survive off draining the life out of TV that was at peace six feet under.
Kathryn Porter is a freelance writer who will talk endlessly about anything entertainment given the chance. You can find her @kaechops on Twitter.
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