We're now just days away from the most important foray into original programming at Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX). Arrested Development returns for its long overdue fourth season exclusively through Netflix on May 26.

Some may argue that Netflix's first three shots at streaming exclusivity were pretty major.

  • Lilyhammer wasn't the draw that Netflix was probably hoping for last year, but as Netflix's first original series, it's clearly significant.
  • House of Cards in February was a game-changer. Reviews have been largely positive, and there will probably even be some Emmy buzz here. There may even be an entirely new award category for streaming. Who knows?
  • Last month's debut of Hemlock Grove hasn't been as buzz-worthy as House of Cards, but Netflix did point out that it attracted more viewers during its first weekend than the Kevin Spacey series did.

All three of those shows were important, but Arrested Development in two weeks could change everything.

Netflix knows that there's already an established audience for the show. A new trailer for the fourth season was introduced on Sunday night, and within 15 hours it had topped 330,000 views. This isn't a surprise to Netflix, obviously. It's been streaming the first three seasons and shipping out discs to its dwindling mail-based subscribers.

Netflix knows what people like, and that's why there's more riding on this show than on any of the other first-run streaming experiments, for which Netflix was merely relying on educated guesses in mining for programming gold. If Arrested Development is a hit -- and it should be, despite the somewhat flat trailer -- Netflix will have the ammo to revive other cult shows that ended prematurely.

Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) is trying something similar by pushing out a bunch of pilots, producing only the shows that resonate with viewers. However, that will never be the more polished science of being able to tap into entire seasons of shows that went off the air before fans were ready to let their characters go.

Getting together entire casts of cult shows is no easy task. However, if the payoff here is substantial, you can bet that Netflix will do it again.