[Update: Netflix has officially stated that they are not in negotiations for Community season 6. Scroll down for details.]
Throughout years of near-cancellations, showrunner change-ups, and principle cast departures, Community fans have continued to push forward in the "6 seasons and movie" campaign. Unfortunately, it won't happen at NBC. Despite enduring love for the show from fans, the series' (consistent) underwhelming ratings have finally forced the network to pass on a season 6 renewal.
For faithful viewers the announcement could come as a shock, especially since recent rumors suggested NBC might lean toward renewal. Nevertheless, the writing has been on the wall for several seasons - in spite of all the goodwill on social media Community's problematic ratings have fallen with nearly every subsequent season. Viewers who have stuck with the Greendale Study Group since 2009 will surely be disappointed but, in fairness to NBC, the network kept renewing the series longer than most insiders had expected (mostly because they didn't have an adequate replacement). Now, the question becomes: Will Sony TV be able to keep the "6 seasons and a movie" dream alive and find a new home for Community?
Variety was the first to report that NBC had officially canceled the series while also suggesting that Community could be resurrected (again) - this time on a different network or TV delivery platform. While NBC has been instrumental in delivering the series to viewers for five years, Community is actually owned by Sony Pictures Television - meaning that NBC does not have final word in the show's future. The network might not see a place in their programming schedule for Community but others might.
The most likely option, and one that Sony has reportedly been considering ever since NBC began to sour on the series, would see Community moved to an online content provider like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. Currently, Hulu has exclusive stream rights for past episodes - making it the most likely contender for Community season 6 placement. However, the current deal between Sony and Hulu could likely be amended (to allow another provider access to seasons 1-5) - especially if the online streaming service was not interested in providing funds for future Community episodes.
Streaming services are quickly becoming a go-to alternative for shows on the verge of cancellation - and, in many cases, it's actually a win-win situation. Fan-favorite programs (Arrested Development) find a new home (and money to produce future episodes) while online entertainment platforms are able to expand their available libraries without investing the upfront costs of developing a brand new show (like House of Cards).
In addition, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon receive much of their income from alternative revenue streams - subscriptions, premium services, in addition to traditional advertising. As a result, discarded programs with existing audiences can be especially attractive - since picking up a series like Community would, subsequently, result in an injection of new subscribers. Traditional networks weigh programming decisions heavily on viewer count, whereas streaming services look at a variety of factors - replayability and potential new subscribers, among others.
Community could be a smart addition as original programming at any of the online content providers. Unlike an expensive cult-favorite like Firefly or Almost Human, Community is also relatively inexpensive to film - creating an opportunity to attract new consumers and build brand loyalty with only moderate production costs. After all, while online streaming services have become second nature to certain consumers, there are still a lot of potential customers who are glued to network and cable programming.
For that reason, it's important that Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, among others, continue to expand their libraries and forge ahead with original programming. Times are changing and, after years of competing against cable and network models, more and more online content providers are attempting to enter the same space - meaning that success isn't just about the size of a provider's library anymore, they also need to secure exclusive must-see programs to help maintain interest in their specific brand.
Still, there's no guarantee that Community will be picked-up by an online (or traditional) provider. These days, whenever a show is cancelled, fans place a lot of hope in an online revival (Terra Nova) but only a handful of series actually receive a second chance - and if we're being honest, Community has already received more chances than most. Many fans fawned at the return of creator Dan Harmon for season 5 but the showrunner was never able to capitalize on that goodwill outside of the existing viewer base. Harmon has been a steady hand the last year but with the departure of Chevy Chase and Donald Glover even the show's most dedicated viewers have started to lose a bit of enthusiasm.
Talk of a movie has also persisted, but Harmon has previously reiterated that development on a big screen addition to the series is somewhat separate from actual TV development. Cancellation will certainly be a hard blow to the prospect of a Community film but, if the show finds a home somewhere else for season 6, it shouldn't be too hard to get movie development back on track.
Some fans may have dropped off and others might grumble from episode to episode but plenty of viewers remain committed to the Greendale Study Group. Until we hear otherwise, there's reason to keep hope alive that we could still see the "6 seasons and a movie" campaign realized. If not, the season 5 finale was a decent place to end a series that has endured one hell of a roller coaster ride at NBC.
Update: Variety claims, via a Netflix rep, that the streaming service isn’t in negotiations for the series. As a result, and as stated in the article, Hulu remains the best chance of an online renewal. Hulu is actively expanding their original programming library, Community's high-profile cast would make the show one of their most expensive projects. Still, if prior seasons of Community have performed well on the streaming service, it is possible that Hulu would be willing to help give the series a proper send-off.
Community could return in the future - somewhere other than NBC.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for any future updates on Community, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.