DVDs have set a new definition of cult status for films and TV shows. While "cult" generally implies word-of-mouth praise and a specialized interest in the subject matter, gone are the days when classic shows, foreign animation or obscure films could only be obtained through a lot of detective work and expenditure.
With the DVD, even a modest return means a project can make back its budget, making it a technical success. This can lead to other opportunities for those involved as people learn to love a project on DVD they'd perhaps never heard of before.
Likewise, fans can demonstrate support to get their favorite project released on DVD much more easily than they could keep a show on the air or convince a studio to release a film. "My So-Called Life" and "Freaks & Geeks" were teen dramas in the '90s that were cancelled early and subsequently launched some fairly high-profile careers. These two "cult" series were first released on DVD after pledge drives by passionate fans actually paid for them in advance -- a trailblazing business model no other market can really duplicate.
The relative costs of a DVD release are much smaller than a full-feature budget and usually much less complicated than keeping a television show going, meaning that fan power is sometimes best expended here.