I admit it: I was wrong about “The Expanse”.
Very cynically, I thought that the fan petitions to try to save this show would fall of deaf ears. I didn’t for a moment expect that any network or streaming service would want a show so niche that it couldn’t survive on SyFy.
Nevertheless, here we are. Amazon has opted to pick up “The Expanse” going forward, which means that the series will continue for a forth season.
I can’t help but wonder: is this really deserved? Of all the many (many) shows that have been axed in the past few weeks, why is “The Expanse” afforded this second chance?
If we’re looking at this purely based on the size of shows’ relative fanbases, “The Expanse” is far from the biggest fish in the sea. The petitions to try to save “Lucifer” have far more signatures, and that show’s only getting a pair of pre-taped episodes to wrap things up.
So why “The Expanse”?
TV Shows as Marketing Tools
I suspect this is less about the show itself, or even the size of its audience, and more about Amazon making a show of force.
Netflix has won the reputation as the internet’s go-to dream choice whenever a show gets cancelled. The streaming service has brought back “Arrested Development” (for better or worse) and in doing so, created the impression that streaming could save all kinds of shows from the chop.
Amazon wants to be the new Netflix. The book retailer turned junk-peddling website wants people to think of their streaming service as the definitive offering.
As such, they want to rule the headlines. They want articles like this one, in which self-important journalists blather on endlessly about all of their shows and how “The Expanse” fits into the mix.
It’s worth taking a hit on a show that won’t set the world on fire, if it means winning positive press.
“The Expanse” enjoys a very niche but vocal fan community that is quick to bombard the internet with praise for the show. Amazon wants to try to leverage “Expanse” fans to promote their own platform.
It doesn’t matter how many people are actually watching “The Expanse”; what matters is how many people are talking about the show, and in so doing, creating positive buzz for Jeff Bezos’ company.
The Future Will Be Weird
I wonder what the world of entertainment will be like in future if this really is Amazon’s marketing strategy. If entire shows are being commissioned for the sole purpose of creating an advertising buzz, what’s coming next?
How niche are streaming services willing to go in trying to draw in customers? Will “The Expanse” prove to be an outlier, or are we going to see other quiet, unassuming shows brought back to life in order to grab attention?
Ultimately, I suspect that the move to nab “The Expanse” is nothing to do with that show at all.
Amazon is, instead, saying to the public: “we’d have saved “Firefly” too if we could”.
“Why don’t you come watch our stuff, since you know we can be trusted to keep your beloved sci-fi shows alive?”