Sorry, Firefly Fans, But Nathan Fillion Can’t Bring It Back

Nathan Fillion, an actor who first rose to nerdy popularity as the star of dearly departed series Firefly and now stars on the ABC (s DIS) series Castle, has become the poster boy (literally — there are posters) for yet another attempt to bring back Firefly from cancelation.

The cause, in this case, is an interview with EW last week where Fillion said:

If I got $300 million from the California Lottery, the first thing I would do is buy the rights to Firefly, make it on my own, and distribute it on the Internet.

This quote, after making the rounds, was seized upon as a call to action by the industrious group now behind Help Nathan Buy Firefly, a fan campaign soliciting pledges from other Firefly aficionados to make the series without the involvement of Fox (s NWS).

But leaving aside Fillion’s ongoing commitment to the ABC series Castle, and the fact that series creator Joss Whedon is busy directing The Avengers, and the fact that the California lottery is fickle with its winnings — it’s not going to happen.

Help Nathan Buy Firefly links to a post by Henry Jenkins doing math on what it would cost to create a new Firefly series using a direct-to-viewer subscription model based on the show’s original budget. If a million fans agreed to spend $40 for a 16-episode season, that would give Whedon $40 million to work with.

But the question isn’t whether Whedon fans would get behind a web-oriented project (ahem, Dr. Horrible), the question is whether or not the rights to Firefly will ever be for sale. As Entertainment Weekly points out, the rights to Terminator were available for $30 million, not $300 million — but rights holder Halcyon was in bankruptcy and in need of cash. Fox is currently doing just fine; even if Fillion really had $300 million to hand over, there’s no strong incentive to sell on the part of Fox.

TV and social media consultant Annie Stamell, who daily works with studios and individuals, offered her analysis in a phone interview: “It seems so outside of the realm of possibility. With the financing, paperwork and red tape necessary to get a deal like that to close, there are so many logistics to prevent forward momentum from happening.”

Ask CBS (s CBS) right now what it would have thought about an offer to buy the rights to Hawaii 5-O. Sure, ten years ago it was a dead franchise, but today, the reboot is one of television’s most popular shows. As long as success stories like that still exist, studios will always be reluctant to sell off intellectual property.

In fact, the story that got this all started — Firefly has been picked up for syndication on the Science Channel — is proof that there is yet more money Fox can make on Firefly, thus disincentivizing them to consider an offer from another company or individual.

That isn’t to say that things are completely impossible; fans of the show, through the purchase of DVDs, got one movie made, and have also engaged in projects like an unauthorized feature-length sequel to Serenity, Browncoats: Redemption. As Stamell pointed out, “Look at the history of Firefly. If there were any fandom that could make this happen, it would be this one.”

Related content on GigaOM Pro: (subscription required)