One of the big events coming up for comedy fans this spring will be the return of Arrested Development, which will debut its fourth season on Netflix after a long hiatus. While in Austin for SXSW Interactive, Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz and star Will Arnett took a few minutes out of their busy, busy, extremely important lives to answer a few questions about the show. So what’s it like being a big star on TV and then putting your face on the Internet instead?
Arnett said it was “very exciting” to be using the Internet to deliver the show to its fans. In part that’s because that’s where the fans are, according to Hurwitz. At least, when compared to premium cable or other distribution networks.
“For this show, which has always taken some risks with the form, it just seemed great to take a risk with the delivery system, too. Which has only been used, as I understand it, for pornography,” Hurwitz explained. Later he clarified that there wasn’t much difference in distribution between Arrested Development on broadcast TV and how it’ll be shown on Netflix.
“I don’t think of it as being on the Internet… Any more than I think of being on TV as being on electricity,” Hurwitz said. “It’s still going to be an experience where people are going to watch a show, and they’re probably going to be watching it on a TV. The fact that it’ll be distributed by the Internet versus cable hasn’t changed the way we made the show.”
Of course, being on the Internet means a different way of thinking about viewership and ratings. Netflix doesn’t plan on releasing any sort of official ratings numbers for Arrested Development, or any of its other shows, for that matter — in part because it doesn’t rely on a big one-time showing for advertisers.
That said, the Arrestsed Development guys expect huge viewership from the show’s fans. How big? “Probably a billion views a day,” Arnett guesstimated. Hurwitz thought that estimate was low, expecting more like 7 or 8 billion views. What’s that in Nielsen ratings? “Probably about a 4″ in the demo they’re looking at, Hurwitz quipped.
Check out my interview above, which was somehow chopped down from a crazy, 20-minute improv session that I couldn’t keep up with most of the time. (Kudos to TechCrunch TV video producer Ashley Pagán for making it work.) Maybe we’ll have outtakes later.