As expected, it’s been announced that the Dillon Panthers will be back for a third season. Friday Night Lights has been renewed for 13 episodes in a deal that splits the production costs and distribution rights between NBC and DirecTV. Fans of the show will likely be ecstatic over the renewal but how will they feel about the fine print?
David Nevis, president of Imagine Television (who produces the show), said, “Five years ago, or probably three years ago, this show would have sunk below the water and disappeared without a trace. Now, there’s value in these shows that have incredibly passionate audiences and passionate fans in the public and passionate fans in the press. I just think it’s really interesting that NBC, being one of the big networks, is now able to capitalize on it.”
The third season episodes of FNL will begin airing this fall, exclusively on DirecTV. Those episodes will show up on Friday nights on NBC beginning some time around January 2009. To help make the deal worthwhile for the satellite TV provider, DirecTV is obviously hoping that a significant number of fans will switch to their service so that they can see the episodes. Will their gamble pay off?
If history is any indication, don’t expect this plan to go over very well. When a similar deal was struck for the cancelled soap opera Passions, many fans became outraged that they were expected to pay for a show that they’d always been able to see for free. Because many complained that they couldn’t subscribe, DirecTV offered online access to the episodes. Neither outlet was enough of a financial success and, a few months into Passions’ first season on DirecTV, the soap was permanently cancelled.
Will enough fans switch to DirecTV to ensure that the series will continue past season three? Will NBC viewers be able to go online and avoid information posted by those who have DirecTV? Stay tuned, I think this is going to get ugly.