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CEO Jeff Bezos, who is a massive fan of the books on which the drama is based, made the announcement Friday at a panel at the National Space Society with the cast and crew in Los Angeles. “I just got word that The Expanse was saved,” the exec told the packed ballroom.
— Cas Anvar (@Casanvar) May 26, 2018
The official pickup comes days after The Hollywood Reporter revealed that the retailer and streaming outlet was near a deal to revive the space drama for a fourth season less than two weeks after Syfy announced it was canceling the series following its season-three conclusion in June. Amazon at the time declined to comment as the deals had yet to close.
Syfy had only first-run linear rights in the U.S. to The Expanse, which was based on James S. A. Corey’s best-selling book series of the same name and starred Steven Strait. Amazon Studios had streaming rights to the first three seasons of the show. Bezos is a big fan of the book — the source material was on the screen when the executive displayed Amazon’s Kindle Fire for the first time to press — and was livid that the TV series went to NBCUniversal-owned Syfy. The move is said to have ignited Bezos’ demand that Amazon Studios brass find the company’s version of Game of Thrones.
The Expanse was a pricey swing for Syfy, and the nature of the deal put additional pressure on the show to perform on its linear network as the cabler did not have either SVOD or international rights to profit from. (Netflix had international rights to the series.) The drama was Syfy’s first major push back into the traditional science-fiction genre.
Following the cancellation, producers Alcon Television Group — which fully financed and produced the series — planned to shop The Expanse to other networks.
Opening to promising reviews and a strong collection of loyal viewers in 2015, The Expanse‘s first season averaged 581,000 viewers in the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic and 1.4 million total viewers with three days of DVR. Season two, which returned more than a year later with a significant marketing push and a solid lead-in, was down 24 percent among total viewers and averaged 457,000 total viewers. That compares more readily with similar returns for Syfy’s inexpensive co-productions like Dark Matter and Killjoys than to the cabler’s original scripted series like The Magicians and Happy.
The Expanse‘s third season, which bowed in April, tumbled another 5 percent among total viewers and 12 percent in the demo from season two.
“The Expanse transported us across the solar system for three brilliant seasons of television. Everyone at Syfy is a massive fan of the series, and this was an incredibly difficult decision,” said Chris McCumber, president of entertainment networks at NBCU Cable Entertainment. “We want to sincerely thank The Expanse’s amazing cast, crew and all the dedicated creatives who helped bring James S. A. Corey’s story to life. And to the series’ loyal fans, we thank you most of all.”
The decision to bring The Expanse to its end comes as Syfy has a packed scripted roster that includes the upcoming George R.R. Martin drama Nightflyers, The Purge, Deadly Class, Krypton, The Magicians, anthology Channel Zero, Van Helsing, Wynonna Earp and Killjoys, with the latter set to wrap in 2019. The Expanse will be Syfy’s second series to conclude this year, joining 12 Monkeys.
Also starring Thomas Jane, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Cas Anvar and Dominique Tipper, The Expanse is set in a future where humanity has colonized the solar system. Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (Children of Men) served as showrunners and executive produced the Alcon TV Group project alongside Naren Shankar.
At Amazon, The Expanse joins a growing roster of genre programming including its upcoming Lord of the Rings TV franchise; Jordan Peele’s Nazi hunting drama series; Gillian Flynn’s Utopia remake; futuristic drama The Peripheral from Westworld creators Lisa Joy and Jonah Nolan; Consider Phlebas; and a reboot of Hanna, among others.
The Expanse move follows a busy month of news on the broadcast side that saw Brooklyn Nine-Nine move to NBC after the comedy’s cancellation by Fox, while the latter network revived Last Man Standing. In both cases, the networks’ studio counterparts owned the shows, making the jump to their respective home networks considerably easier. In The Expanse‘s case, Amazon had SVOD rights, making a move to a different outlet more challenging.
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