What’s With So Many Networks Canceling Previously Renewed Shows?

Desperate to save cash, streaming services are pulling the plug on previously greenlit projects

Ophelia Lovibond and Jake Johnson in HBO's "Minx," one of the many shows who saw its renewal reversed by a streaming service
HBO's "Minx" is one of many shows to see its renewal reversed.

We’re only 10 days into the new year, but it seems as though one of our 2023 predictions is holding true so far: Streaming services keep canceling previously renewed shows, in many cases pulling the plug after filming on new seasons had already begun — even occasionally yanking prior seasons from their platform entirely.

As a new piece by The Hollywood Reporter points out, HBO has caught a lot of heat from fans and creatives alike for shelving completed projects like the Batgirl movie and the second season of Minx in order to receive tax write-offs, but the practice has become widespread across all streaming services. AMC Networks recently axed already-ordered second seasons of Moonhaven and 61st Street as well as pulled previous series orders for Demascus and Invitation to a Bonfire. (Demascus and 61st Street had already wrapped production on seasons that will now never see the light of day, and Invitation to a Bonfire was in the middle of filming.) Meanwhile, Paramount Plus recently scrapped a planned Workaholics movie just five weeks before it was supposed to start filming, while Netflix rescinded the renewal of Inside Job.

So what’s the deal? Why are streaming services suddenly going back on their word and eliminating so much content? In short, they’re looking to save money — especially after the initial streaming boom saw many of them spending massive amounts of it.

“We got a lot of public noise about some of the content write-offs that we took, which is a reflection of an industry that went overboard and that went on a spending frenzy,” Warner Brothers Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels reportedly explained at a Citibank conference on Jan. 5. “We shaved off a lot of the excess last year, and I think that’s something that everyone else in the industry is going to go through. We’re coming from an irrational time of overspending with very limited focus on return on investment, and I think others are going to have to make some adjustments that we, frankly, have behind us now.”

But surely there has to be a way to cut costs that doesn’t involve pulling the rug out from the writers, showrunners and performers who worked hard on shows and movies that will sit in a vault somewhere forever? Is a tax break really worth all the ire these streamers are rightly receiving for wasting their time and toying with their emotions?

Time will tell. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, “The recent wave has unsurprisingly caused consternation in the creative community, with some writers calling for their union to make the corporate takebacks an issue in upcoming contract negotiations.”

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