Fans fighting to keep a beloved show alive is nothing new, and by now we’ve seen all the gimmicks. Amazon took notice when viewers of The Expanse put a model of the Rocinante in space, and NBC rewarded Timeless fans with a bonus two-hour movie when they chartered a plane to fly a banner over San Diego Comic Con asking the network to #SaveRufus. But what would cause people to take to the streets of New York to fight for Wynonna Earp, a show that has already been renewed both for a fourth and a fifth season?
It’s one of the most bizarre cases any fandom has ever had to deal with. IDW Entertainment, which produces Wynonna Earp for Syfy, simply doesn’t have the funds to begin production on its modestly-rated but much beloved supernatural series which follows the demon-hunting descendent of Wyatt Earp, even though it is contractually obligated to deliver two more 12-episode seasons to the network. So while the suits figure out the financials, self-proclaimed “Earpers” have decided to #FightForWynonna by purchasing digital billboard space in one of the flashiest addresses around: Times Square.
In fact, in the past week, several other locations in the city have carried the message to IDWE that Wynonna Earp fans are taking a polite “no chill” approach to the production delay. The Twitter thread below contains over 20 pictures from Earpers who immortalized the temporary billboard messages on social media. “The primary goal is to show that the Earpers will do anything and everything to support the show as well as the companies behind it like IDW and all other current or future financial backers,” said Kevin Bachelder, host of the Tales of the Black Badge podcast and advocate for the show. “Earpers buy merchandise, DVDs, attend multiple Earp conventions around the world and more.”
“In today’s TV landscape there are more than 500 scripted TV shows available, including lots of so-called ‘good’ shows, but what folks really want nowadays is a show that touches them and their lives. Wynonna Earp has done that by giving us characters that we truly care about,” Bachelder continued. “This has also inspired groups of fans to setup fan run Wynonna Earp conventions that are taking place in cities like New Orleans, Toronto, London and St. Louis later in 2019. Earpers want to meet and spend time with other folks like themselves who value kindness, inclusivity and a positive take on life. The Wynonna Earp experience has been a life changing experience for so many of us.”
So what exactly are the challenges facing IDW Entertainment? It seemed as though Wynonna Earp had opened the door for other intellectual properties owned by IDW to make their way to the small screen in profitable fashion. Netflix recently announced it had picked up straight-to-series orders for IDW’s Locke & Key, October Faction, and V-Wars, and after Wynonna Earp earned a People’s Choice Award, the audience engagement factor seemed to be all taken care of. But making money from these productions can mean playing the long game towards syndication and other licensing, merchandising, and distribution deals.
According to ADW Capital Partners, which owns close to ten percent of IDW’s publicly traded stock, the problems could stem from a number of factors. “Independent content companies are like biotech firms,” ADW asserted in a press release. “Often times, they have the skill, expertise, and understanding of what the market wants/demands but are unable to successfully take these assets to an ‘income producing’ state. The reasons maybe personnel/operational resources, access to the right cost of capital, and/or experience. We believe IDW has struggled to financially monetize its content for all the above reasons.”
More concretely, IDWE had to foot the bill for the development of its new Netflix shows, one of which wasn’t originally ordered straight-to-series. Locke & Key went through a more traditional (and expensive) pilot process with the anticipation that the show would be licensed to Hulu. However, the streaming service chose not to green light the series, leaving IDWE with non-reimbursable expenses amounting to $13.6 million according to a December 2018 BusinessWire report. In that same report, October Faction is reportedly over budget, and Wynonna Earp needs foreign sales to recoup its net investment since “Syfy Network’s license fees for domestic rights only cover approximately half of IDWE’s costs.”
For their part, Syfy and IDWE have remained hopeful and supportive. Syfy issued a statement saying, “Syfy ordered Season 4 of Wynonna Earp from IDW and is completely committed to the series. This has not changed,” and IDWE also wants to find ways to deliver, saying, “IDW is committed to continuing to tell the Wynonna Earp story. Much like the fans, we are passionate about not only the series, but the comics, the characters and the overall message that the Wynonna Earp franchise carries. We are in the process of working out the details for how the Wynonna story will continue and will share new details very soon.”
In the meantime, the fans don’t plan on receding into the background, and Melanie Scrofano and showrunner Emily Andras let them know how thankful they were for the fan effort with their own billboard. The “Fight for Wynonna” will continue on social media and in the real world to let investors know that the audience is still out there hungry for more demon ass-kicking on Wynonna Earp.