For fans of cult television shows, their cancellation has long been a seemingly fateful but also terribly painful eventuality. When small groups of consumers deeply love a series—usually one that is odd, quirky, or nontraditional in some way—their loyalty might keep the show alive for a few years. But networks want big audiences, and shows that cannot pull them in often wind up on the chopping block within a few years.
That was the story for Veronica Mars, a television series that aired for three seasons and then was cancelled in 2007. The show’s creator Rob Thomas purposefully wrote an “unsatisfying” ending, in the hope that fans would protest enough that the network would reverse course and bring the show back onto the air. The fans protested, but the network did not budge. For most shows, the story would have ended there.
But modern technology allows consumers to do more to get what they want. Recognizing the power of the crowd, Rob Thomas considered the idea that he could ask fans to invest. If he got enough of them to do so, he might have enough to shoot, edit, and release a movie. In that case, he could satisfy consumers’ demands and provide some narrative resolution to “Marsmellows” (as fans call themselves), while also potentially turning a profit.
The campaign was so successful that Thomas reached his fundraising target within 12 hours. The released movie drew mediocre reviews from critics, but it made fans remarkably happy. Perhaps the happiest consumers were those people who had contributed, anywhere from $10 to $10,000, to make sure the movie was made. In addition to the opportunity to watch Veronica Mars solve a whole new mystery, many of them took advantage of the special recognition they purchased through their investment. Most of the extras in the film, for example, are people who paid around $2500 to take that role.
Although this movie might be the most notable example of how Kickstarter has transformed itself, from a resource option for small entrepreneurs with a new idea into a major media financier, it is not the only one. Because the crowd determines which projects get funded, and which do not, the proposals still need to be compelling and interesting. But if a familiar actor is able to raise funds to make a movie, studios also know that it is likely to achieve at least some measure of success. Consumers already have demonstrated that they are willing to pay for it.
Source: Dave Itzkoff, “‘Veronica Mars’ Fans Are Happy to Finance a Reunion,” The New York Times, March 4, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com