Direct-to-DVD "television shows." Any chance of success?

As I mentioned in START’s thread on television commercials, I own a lot of TV shows on DVD. I love watching TV this way, and I’ll never go back to the other way of watching them. But it’s recently made me wonder. Is there any chance of success of a show being successful if it’s never on TV to begin with? For example, Firefly is considered an amazing DVD success, so much so that it greenlit a movie. This is despite its utter failure on television (not the show’s fault).

What if Whedon and company were to continue Firefly, but the episodes went directly to DVD? Every 6-12 months, a new “season” is released, containing the same number of episodes, more-or-less, as traditional television. Would this stand a chance of being profitable? Would the show be able to maintain the kind of visibility it would need to survive?

Firefly might, for at least one release, but I think it would be next to impossible to convince enough people to buy some random show on DVD sight unseen to make it profitable. The bulk of TV revenue comes from commercials and syndication, two revenue streams that would be non-existent for a direct-to-DVD release. You’d have a studio putting out a lot of money for production without much assurance of seeing any of it back.

It could be done, but it wouldn’t be an easy thing and I doubt that many television produces would want to take that chance.

In Japan there used to be a huge market for what were essentially television series released directly to video. I’m only familiar with the anime side of it but apparently there was more than just animated series being released one episode at a time on video. When the Japanese economy tanked, though, this almost entirely vanished.

In order for this kind of thing to work the show would have to be cheaply produced or a guarenteed hit. A cancelled series whose DVD sales have been astronomically high is certainly one situation where this could work. But just releasing a television series to video doesn’t seem likely for the time being…