UPDATED: It’s been two weeks since the surprising cancellation of A&E’s Longmire but outpouring of strong fan reaction continues. As do producer Warner Horizon’s efforts to find another home for the show. For the past two weeks, Warner Bros. TV’s cable division has been putting together a detailed presentation highlighting the series’ performance and following as well as the producers’ creative plans for Season 4. The series will be pitched to digital and cable outlets in the coming days.
I hear Netflix and Amazon are expected to hear the pitch, with Amazon expressing early interest. Subscription-based services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu would be perfect for a show like Longmire, which has a large but somewhat older-skewing audience. Longmire was A&E’s most watched original scripted series of all time, averaging 5.6 million viewers in Season 3’s most current ratings, a slight dip from Season 2’s nearly 6 million average despite a much weaker lead-in. Ad-supported networks depend heavily on advertisers, who are after younger audiences, practically dooming popular series like Longmire or NBC’s Harry’s Law whose viewership is a little greyer. Netflix is the most logical destination for the series as the streaming service already has the rights to the series’ existing seasons as part of its multi-series streaming deal with Warner Bros. But I hear Amazon’s name as a real possibility. Interestingly, I heard there were no plans for Hulu to hear the pitch. Hulu also had been considered a strong possibility as its new head of content, Craig Erwich, developed and sold Longmire while running Warner Horizon. That could change, with Yahoo, which recently rescued cancelled NBC comedy Community, also a remote possibility though it is not subscription-based and relies on advertisers. However, even subscription digital services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu tend to cater to younger viewers who are generally quicker to adopt new technologies.
Things are murky on the cable side. TNT, which would’ve been a logical choice as it is a sister network to Warner Horizon, is said to not be interested (though it is unclear who there would take the pitch even if there was interest with both Steve Koonin and Michael Wright gone.) TNT originally developed Longmire and passed on it before the project was picked up by A&E. AMC also would make sense because of its Western-themed Saturday that features original drama Hell on Wheels that shares sensibilities with Longmire, but I hear there are no plans to take in a pitch, at least for now. Warner Horizon has some time, it has the cast under contracts through early next year.
WBTV made a similar strong effort to shop crime drama The Mentalist out last spring when the series was in danger of cancellation at CBS. That series landed a last-minute reprieve for a 13-episode seventh season, which is expected to be the show’s last. A similar happy ending for Longmire at its original home A&E, the way AMC un-cancelled The Killing after Season 2, appears to be out of the question. I hear that in the network’s view, Longmire was not profitable, leading to its demise. The network’s stance that the show was losing money likely stems from the lower ad rates an older-skewing series like Longmire commands and the fact that the network doesn’t own it. A&E sister Lifetime similarly cancelled a series from an outside studio, Sony TV’s Drop Dead Diva, after four seasons but reversed its decision after more favorable financial terms were reached, something WBTV would likely also be open to.