Extant cancelled by CBS, as ratings trump streaming deals
James R | On 13, Oct 2015
Extant has been cancelled by CBS after two seasons.
The CBS sci-fi show, about an astronaut (Halle Berry) who returned from an isolated period in space impregnated by aliens, debuted with a healthy 9.58 million viewers back in 2014. CBS, though, didn’t seem concerned about ratings, because it had something more valuable in the bag: a streaming deal with Amazon Prime Instant Video.
“It’s almost like the rating on CBS is secondary,” CEO Leslie Moonves told the Fortune Brainstorm Tech Summit in Aspen. “The shows are successful before they even get to the air.”
Indeed, Amazon’s cash deal for Extant followed another, similar deal for Under the Dome, an equally high-concept sci-fi. Together, they seemed to have everything going for them: big names in front of the camera (Berry, Dean Norris, fresh from Breaking Bad), big names behind the camera (Extant was produced by Steven Spielberg) and bucks in the bank.
But the show soon began to lose steam: Season 1 finished with 5.45 million viewers, almost half that of its premiere, while the semi-rebooted Season 2 began with 5.2 million and slipped to 4.5 million by the end of its run.
“Extant hasn’t just tried to move out of its old orbit: it’s started crashing down to Earth,” we wrote in our review of the Season 2 opener.
The show made its UK debut on Amazon Prime Instant Video in July 2014, with new episodes arriving on Amazon every week following their initial broadcast. Season 2 adopted the same release model, with episodes arriving on Amazon Prime every Thursday from July.
But despite the immediate injection of cash from Amazon, the poor ratings proved enough for CBS to pull the plug: after two seasons, EW has confirmed that the show had not been renewed.
The news comes hot on the heels of CBS also axing Under the Dome after three seasons – and cold on the tail of Constantine, also an Amazon exclusive, being cancelled by NBC.
Together, the shows demonstrate not just Amazon’s bad luck in acquiring US TV shows – Vikings and Halt and Catch Fire, on the other hand, continue to perform well – but also remind the TV industry that even in an age where VOD platforms can buy rights straight away and fund productions from day one, ratings remain as important as ever for US networks.
Nonetheless, the streaming pound continues to cash a lot of cheques: CBS has only just signed several new deals with Netflix, giving the Amazon rival exclusive subscription rights to Jane the Virgin and Zoo. Both have already been renewed for second seasons.
“CBS, Halle Berry and the producers have decided to conclude the Extant story after last season’s exciting and fitting conclusion,” CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller told EW. “Extant played an important role in expanding CBS’ lineup of original scripted programming in the summer. We are proud of the show’s success on the network, as well as its popularity on Amazon Prime Video.”
“I am so proud of what we accomplished on Extant,” added Berry. “This season seemed such a natural place to end Molly’s journey that I, along with CBS, felt it best served the story to leave it there. I’ve loved this experience working with such a talented cast and creative team. It was my first foray into episodic television, and I’m excited to continue my relationship with CBS, producing more compelling stories through my 606 Films production banner.”
Indeed, CBS isn’t giving up on Halle Berry either: Berry is reportedly already developing a legal drama with CBS: Legalease, which follows a biracial lawyer from Chicago who finds herself working with a white attorney in New York, a partnership within a justice system that expose modern bias and prejudice.
CBS is already in talks with Netflix, Amazon and other streaming sites.