FOX announced yesterday that it was canceling “Utopia,” a televised social experiment in which contestants live on a compound for 12 months and try to create a new society. FOX aired an edited show on Friday nights, but viewers could sign up for a “Passport” to Utopiatv.com as subscription and access a live-stream of events on the compound 24/7. They would also participate in the elimination process, something FOX added to the format after it posted low initial ratings.
And there’s the rub: just like that digital dilemma about what to do with your Facebook profile when you die, what does a network do with all of it’s live-streams and social extensions?
Pull the live-stream and post an open letter to the “Viewtopians,” telling them to contact customer care about their subscriptions. That’s not going over so well on the “Viewtopian” page, where people are sharing conspiracy theories about FOX ripping them off for $5/month and mourning the show. And what about those live-streams?
I will pay good money if anyone has rips of the Utopia live-stream as the show was suddenly cancelled.
— Chad Quandt (@QuandtumTheory) November 3, 2014
As more reality formats add bonus content and experiment with digital models, there’re going to need a better way to clean up their footprint when a show is canceled, especially an expensive reality format that’s cheaper to pull midseason then let it run out. If anything, maybe they should save “Utopia” web presence, charge a one time fee, and let it become a cult favorite like “Freaks and Geeks,” or “Arrested Development.”
Fans are already trolling Twitter and wondering on reddit if they’ll ever get any closure. This is what happens when you engage viewers — you start to owe them a little something for their time.