'Designated Survivor' May Be Revived at Netflix After ABC Cancellation

Sources say talks are underway for a potential third season — with its fifth showrunner.
ABC/Sven Frenzel
'Designated Survivor'

Days after ABC surprisingly canceled Designated Survivor, the Kiefer Sutherland starrer may be the latest series to be revived.

Sources say Netflix, which is the international SVOD home for the Entertainment One political drama, is mulling a potential third season for the show. Sources note a deal is still far from done as the series is an expensive undertaking and streaming rights with Hulu — which has the series in the U.S. rights to the first two seasons — would still have to be sorted out.

At the time of its cancellation, Designated Survivor was in talks with a new showrunner to take over the series, which would be its fifth. Sources say that should Netflix revive the drama, the new showrunner would replace Keith Eisner (The Good Wife) in the top behind-the-scenes post.

During a Tuesday press call with reporters, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey noted that the Disney-owned network's creative concerns about the series were the primary reason for its cancellation. "The show had a lot of behind-the-scenes churn with the number of showrunners," Dungey noted of Designated Survivor, which burned through four in two seasons.

Amy B. Harris (The Carrie DiariesWicked City) was originally tapped to serve as showrunner on the drama, which was created by David Guggenheim. After boarding Designated Survivor ahead of the pilot, Harris was replaced when the show scored its official series pickup as part of a change in direction. She was replaced by Jon Harmon Feldman (Blood & OilNo Ordinary Family), who helped launch the ABC Studios and Mark Gordon Co. co-production with eOne to decent reviews and impressive ratings (including DVR records) ahead of its full-season pickup. Feldman left in December 2016 for an overall deal with ABC Studios and was replaced by Jeff Melvoin (Army Wives). Eisner replaced Melvoin in April of last year.

Logistically, Designated Survivor is a difficult show. Production takes place in Toronto, the writers room is in Los Angeles and Guggenheim is based in New York. Sutherland, who executive produces, is highly involved on the show's creative front and effectively does a pass on each script before it is finalized alongside Guggenheim. The series is the first to come out of Gordon's independent banner outside of ABC Studios, with the latter set as the lead producer on the show. 

While not a ratings or critical breakout, Designated Survivor was a profitable show for ABC thanks in part to its lucrative Netflix SVOD deal and strong international sales. 

Should Netflix close a deal for the drama, the program would become the third canceled series to find another home after NBC rescued Brooklyn Nine-Nine after Fox's ax and Fox revived Last Man Standing a year after ABC's cancellation. (In the case of Brooklyn and Standing, NBC and Fox's studio counterparts own the shows.)

Keep track of all the renewals, cancellations and new show orders with THR's scorecards for ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW and all the latest pilot pickups and passes with our handy guide. For complete coverage, bookmark THR.com/upfronts.