There's no need to have a "save this show" campaign for Tina Fey's new series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, her first on the air since beloved backstage sitcom 30 Rock. (She co-created it with fellow 30 Rock producer Robert Carlock.) Originally developed for NBC, then picked up by the network to debut in early 2015, it's now going to Netflix, which has guaranteed a two-season run for a show that would have been lucky to stumble through one on a traditional broadcast network. It debuts in March.
Starring Ellie Kemper (best known for The Office and Bridesmaids), the show is a quirky comedy about a woman resuming life in the real world after escaping a cult. The combination of that premise and the fact that 30 Rock never had great ratings suggested the show was unlikely to be a huge success for NBC, a network that is far more interested in bland, formless shows that nonetheless reach mass audiences.
There's a simple reason for NBC to make this unprecedented deal to ship the show over to Netflix: its corporate parent, NBC-Universal, is almost guaranteed to make more money this way. NBC-Universal owns the program outright, but the amount of revenue it can raise is directly tied to how many episodes it will produce. Netflix is guaranteeing 26; NBC can only guarantee 13, with little hope of a second-season renewal.
Netflix is also turning into a kind of all-purpose home for canceled series as of late, with the network launching fourth seasons of both The Killing (canceled by AMC) and Longmire (canceled by A&E). Netflix only cares about your subscription dollars, which means the number of Longmire super-fans can be much, much smaller for the streaming service than it is for a TV network. By picking up — and renewing — Kimmy Schmidt before it even airs, Netflix is simply speeding up that process and getting to work with big names like Fey, Kemper, and Carlock.
It's not just win-win for both sides of this coin — it's a good example of how rapidly TV is changing and adapting.