Gob Bluth's final magic act turned out to be a hat trick.
The syndication rights of the critically acclaimed yet criminally unwatched Arrested Development have been simultaneously licensed by Microsoft's MSN.com and the cable channels HDNet and G4, allowing the series to run on all three outlets through 2009.
While the arrangement to air the reruns on the cable channels is a standard one, the decision to allow the show to run concurrently online is one of the first of its kind.
The deal allows for all 53 episodes from the show's three-season span to appear on each of the outlets and was made despite the fact that the number of shows typically required for syndication is 100, nearly double what Arrested Development had produced.
MSN, in an attempt to win over fans of the banana stand, has not only announced plans to allow the show to be downloaded for free through its site, but has designs on creating an entirely interactive online home for the short-lived series.
The portal will make available all 53 episodes at once, providing viewers with the option of downloading individual shows on demand through the duration of the license period, rather than unspooling the 22-minute gems one at a time.
"The beauty of distributing an entire series online--especially a series like Arrested, where the audience is so passionate--is that we can build an immersive world around the show," Rob Bennett, MSN's general manager of entertainment and video services, told the Hollywood Reporter.
"We want to build something where fans will feel at home."
The streams of the shows on MSN will be free to viewers, but they will be sponsored and include advertisements, the revenue from which will be split between the site and Fox.
While all parties are keeping mum on the cost of the syndication deal, the Hollywood Reporter pegs the price tag for each outlet in the low-six-figure range per episode.
"This is a very large deal for us," Bennett told the Los Angeles Times. "It fits right within the sweet spot of our strategy to invest in great content for the people who are spending time on MSN."
While the Website will have the rights to the show as soon as September, they won't roll out the episodes until later in the year, in order to debut the whole package at once.
The cable channels, though, are more than happy to fill in the gap.
G4, which bought the basic cable rights to the series, will begin running episodes in a daily primetime slot in October.
HDNet, meanwhile, nabbed the exclusive high-definition rights of the show, and will air it in back-to-back episodes Wednesday nights starting in September.
The syndication deal is good, but not great, news for fans of Arrested Development, who earlier this year held fast to the belief that the show might be picked up by either Showtime or ABC.
Both networks expressed interest in continuing Development's development after it ended its run on Fox in early January, and a tentative deal with the Showtime was even hammered out by producers. However, show creator Mitch Hurwitz announced in March that he was quitting the series regardless of whether or not it was picked up, putting the kibosh on any plans to move forward with production.
The series, revolving around Michael Bluth's (Jason Bateman) ongoing attempts keeping his dysfunctional family functioning while keeping afloat their Orange County development company, debuted on Fox in 2003.
But it never found a sizable audience despite critical adulation. The show has won six Emmys, including Best Comedy Series in 2004, and has a shot for one more next month: Will Arnett is up for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy for his role as the dangerously unskilled illusionist Gob.