How Netflix May Have Helped Make That 'Coach' Reboot Possible

One of the consistent programming initiatives at NBC in the past few years has been the network's love of rebooting old TV shows. Specifically, attempting to bring back old shows that are owned by NBC Universal. Part of it is driven by the success of the Syfy Network reboot of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, but it's also driven by this feeling that television audiences will be more open to a "franchise" TV idea they are already familiar with viewing.

This love of reboots continues, despite the fact that many of the reboot ideas never hit the air and the ones that did (IRONSIDE, BIONIC WOMAN) were creatively empty and ultimately unsuccessful. And yet, NBC continues to aggressively follow the reboot rainbow, with a reboot of HEROES on the way and a comedy based on the "Problem Child" movies also headed to the network.

But even given NBC's love of reboots, the decision to bring back the long-running ABC comedy COACH - complete with original star Craig T. Nelson - seems like an odd choice. Sure, the show aired for nine seasons and there is a certain amount of fondness for the show among older viewers. But the show doesn't have the buzz of a FRIENDS or even a GRACE UNDER FIRE. So why bring back this particular show at all? And why give it a 13-episode straight-to-air order?

Part of it has to do with the fact that NBC can reboot the show with the original lead. One thing executives seemed to have learned from some of the other reboot attempts is that the original fondness for the show is tied up with the original cast. Having Craig T. Nelson on board helps make the show more attractive to the original show's fans. But a new season of the show also brings new value to the old episodes and that's where this story gets interesting.

COACH never did all that well in syndication and now it's pretty much airing in bartered timeslots that could just as easily be filled with ads for the Turbo Juicer. But the show has also been on Netflix and that's where it's found a new life. When it was first added to the streaming video service, only a couple of the show's nine seasons were included. But that later changed, with the entire run of the series now available. And while Netflix is circumspect about discussing how many people watch a specific title, one executive I spoke to last year mentioned in passing that there was a "surprisingly energetic" reaction to the show when the entire series became available.

Which brings us to this new season and why it makes financial sense for NBC to give it the greenlight. Netflix is aggressively rolling out internationally and their success is spawning a lot of competitors. Right now, COACH is only available on the U.S. version of Netflix, although some random seasons are available on other platforms internationally. But overall, it's a rare commodity: an American comedy with nine seasons that is undervalued in a global marketplace. It might not be SEINFELD, but it's funny enough to make some money off of a new SVOD deal.

As Netflix negotiates new content deals, it has been pushing to acquire global streaming rights. Ideally, exclusive rights, but the ability to run a show in every market is the big factor. That can be problematic, because with a very successful show, it's not just the studio that has to sign off. Substantial profit participants also to agree and that can be a challenge.

My understanding is that a new season of COACH would also involve an abridged contract for the previous seasons with the profit participants, which makes it easier to sell the show for global SVOD. And having a new season of the show only makes those earlier nine seasons even more valuable. Then there's the chance the show might find a broadcast audience, although I'm not convinced anyone at NBC really believes that is a likely outcome.

The best scenario for NBC Universal owner Comcast is that the new episodes are produced but that NBC declines to air them. The new season could be sold off to some sister cable outlet for a few bucks but the real money would be in a new SVOD deal that combines the new "unaired" season with the older nine seasons of the show. Think of it as the UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT for people over 40. The deal gains value because of all of the free press that came along with the initial announcement this week as well as the updates along the way. 

Not that a Netflix deal for the new season of COACH is a done deal. But I've told that the studio discussed a possible new season with the streaming company and Netflix executives provided "valuable insight" into the decision to move forward.

Some deals in Hollywood are made more for financial reasons than creative ones, and a new season of COACH falls into that category. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's important to understand the finances behind the deals if you want to get a clear picture of how Hollywood really works.