Disney Scrapped Their Show. An Unlikely Champion Saved It.

Last summer, the writer and producer Aron Eli Coleite was on holiday in Las Vegas with his wife when he received an urgent call from Nicole Clemens, the president of Paramount Television.

Coleite was the showrunner on “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” a fantasy series Paramount was producing for Disney+. The show had recently finished production on its first season, but Clemens was calling with bad news: Disney had decided to pull the plug, effectively canceling the series before it made it to air.

Without warning, “The Spiderwick Chronicles” was “being turned into one of those tax write-offs that I’d heard so much about,” Coleite said in an interview. Christine McCarthy, the chief financial officer for Disney, had said on an earnings call in May 2023 that Disney was in the process of a strategic shift that would lead to downsizing and cost-cutting across the board, beginning with the removal and cancellation of some shows on their streaming platforms. “Spiderwick” was a casualty of these cuts, and “there was no fighting against it,” Coleite said. (Disney declined to comment.)

Clemens said in an interview that she was shocked by the move. “We’d started a second season, and there was a lot of love and excitement for the project,” she said. “It was like, whoa.”

But after facing certain extinction, “The Spiderwick Chronicles” was rescued by an unlikely savior: The Roku Channel, the ad-supported streaming platform built into the company’s smart TV interfaces and stand-alone streaming devices. All eight episodes of “The Spiderwick Chronicles” debuted on Roku last week, joining the platform’s modest but growing library of original content, including the movie “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” and its reboot of “The Great American Baking Show.”

So far the move has paid off: Roku announced on Tuesday that “Spiderwick” had the best first weekend of any on-demand title on the Roku Channel, in terms of total hours streamed. (The streamer also offers live channels and sports.) Roku declined to give specific numbers, saying only that “Spiderwick” was watched by “millions of streamers” in its first three days on the platform.

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