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Netflix Saves ‘The Killing’ and Builds Its Fan Brand
By: Roger Hagy, Jr.
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This week The Killing, AMC’s ratings-poor crime drama, was rescued from cancellation — again. Despite a devoted fan base, the show was canceled by AMC in 2012 following its second season, before being surprisingly resurrected by the network in January 2013. After this summer’s little-watched third season, AMC once again pulled the plug. Who’s the show’s savior this time?

Netflix, of course. The online streaming service is producing a fourth and final season for The Killing, giving fans a proper ending. Netflix isn’t new to the revival game, though. The company produced a fourth season of the comedy Arrested Development — an amazing seven years after an abrupt cancellation during its third season. The original show gained a rabid cult following on Netflix, and fans dreamed of resolution. Netflix saved the day. The fourth season may not have been the strongest in the show’s run, but the revival worked: A movie and a fifth season are in development.

All this brings us to a fascinating new identity for Netflix. What started out as a DVD-by-mail service has become an online entertainment giant, and Netflix is leading the charge into the future of home entertainment. However, as its cable and Internet counterparts explore this new frontier, Netflix is simultaneously positioning itself as a company that — gasp! — listens to its customers and responds accordingly.

Remember Qwikster? It’s a “brand” best forgotten, but it illustrates just how responsive Netflix is to customer feedback. Back in 2011, CEO Reed Hastings announced that Netflix was going to become a purely streaming service — no more DVDs. Subscribers who had DVD plans would become subscribers of a new service called Qwikster, forcing many Netflix customers to now manage two different accounts. Subscribers rightfully revolted and Netflix stock sank. Unsurprisingly, Hastings soon reversed the decision and killed off Qwikster. Netflix would remain as it had been.

Or would it? It’s at this point that Netflix’s identity really began to transform from a subscriber-fueled company into a fan-fueled company. Subscribers love their personal ratings and queues, and they’re fanatic about it. The announcement of a revival of Arrested Development shortly thereafter is surely no accident.

Today, Netflix also has dedicated fan bases for its original shows, namely the Emmy-winning House of Cards and the buzzy Orange Is the New Black. Plus, the company recently announced a deal to produce four shows and a mini-series focused on fan-favorite Marvel heroes Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Daredevil.

So will The Killing’s fourth season be a big hit on Netflix? Probably not. But the show’s fans will be happy, and more people will see a company that’s enjoying a surprisingly personal relationship with its customers. It almost brings to mind the heyday of video rental stores and the culture within. Blockbuster stores died this month. Netflix is poised for a better fate — as long as it continues to both innovate and bring a personal touch to an otherwise impersonal online interface.

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About the Author
Roger Hagy, Jr. is a writer, editor, and designer specializing in branding, messaging, and higher education communications. He currently serves as a senior communications manager for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
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