Why 'The Crown' Is Ending With Season 5 on Netflix

Heavy — and pricey — is The Crown.

Netflix's decision to wrap the awards darling — which through two of its three seasons has earned 26 Emmy nominations — after its fifth season caught many in the industry by surprise, as creator Peter Morgan had previously planned the show to run for six. The Jan. 31 announcement, which also included news that Imelda Staunton would take over as Queen Elizabeth, arrived the same day that the streamer brought another critical favorite, BoJack Horseman, to its end after six seasons.

To hear Bojack creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg tell it, wrapping his animated comedy so soon wasn't his idea. "From a creative standpoint, I'm not mad at it; but it was not always my plan to do six seasons," he told The Hollywood Reporter podcast TV's Top 5.

BoJack and The Crown will finish their runs as two of the six longest-running originals on Netflix and the rare scripted shows to make it to five seasons — when many deals mandate additional financial incentives to those with a stake in the series. Of 55 Netflix originals that have ended or will do so this year, just nine concluded with three seasons and five after four seasons. The latter group includes GLOW and 13 Reasons Why, with the YA drama weathering pay raises for its stars.

Shows tend to become more expensive as they age, and The Crown is among Netflix's priciest. As THR reported in April, streamers like Netflix assign a minimum guaranteed value that creators and top talent receive via ownership points — but those payments often start in the third season, with the real money coming after four and beyond. Still, the decision to trim The Crown's shelf life ultimately was a decision that creator Morgan made: "At the outset I had imagined The Crown running for six seasons but now that we have begun work on the stories for season five it has become clear to me that this is the perfect time and place to stop," he said in a statement Jan. 31 announcing the news.

In making renewal decisions, Netflix weighs a show's costs against its viewership returns and other top-secret data, including completion rates. That is to say, the streamer could reallocate some of its anticipated $17.3 billion spending budget this year to new programming more likely to attract new subscribers, rather than renewing a veteran series for an additional season should its internal metrics fail to impress. (Netflix, like other streamers, does not release traditional viewership data and declined to comment for this story.) 

This story first appeared in the Feb. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.