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The broadcast network has decided that the current seventh season of the Disney fairy tale drama will be its last.
From creators and showrunners Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis, the veteran drama was moved to Fridays for its rebooted season after the departures of original stars Ginnifer Goodwin and Jennifer Morrison, Josh Dallas and Jared Gilmore. The series rebooted this season with an aged-up Henry (Andrew J. West) while centering on what Kitsis and Horowitz dubbed a “new chapter” in the show’s book around Lana Parrilla, Robert Carlyle and Colin O’Donoghue.
Despite the big swing, Once Upon a Time‘s loyal legions of viewers did not follow the series when it moved from Sundays to Fridays this season as its ratings have fallen 35 percent. Season-to-date, with Nielsen’s live-plus-7 lifts, the drama’s seventh season is averaging a 1.1 rating among adults 18-49. Viewership is down by 37 percent for an average audience of 3.8 million.
What’s more, ABC’s new genre-focused Fridays consisting of Once Upon a Time and Marvel’s Inhumans/Agents of SHIELD has hurt the network’s long standing as a dominant player on the traditionally little-watched night. Season to date, ABC now regularly places last on the night — even with new episodes of Once Upon a Time and SHIELD.
Once Upon a Time had always envisioned a six-season run. However, with the new cast additions, Kitsis and Horowitz looked for inspiration from Marvel and its reboots to do the same in the fairy tale universe. To that end, the series enlisted West and fellow new players including Alison Fernandez, Dania Ramirez, Gabrielle Anwar, Mekia Cox, Adelaide Kane, Rose Reynolds and Emma Booth to explore a new version of Cinderella, among other tales, in a new location (Seattle) with returning stars like Parilla taking on new personas. Kitsis and Horowitz told The Hollywood Reporter at the start of the season that they hoped that the stories with West and Ramirez would continue into season eight alongside legacy characters.
The decision to move forward and reboot the show for a seventh season came as Once Upon a Time remained a valuable property for ABC. The series has a massive SVOD deal with Netflix that is said to be in the eight-figure range. As part of the season seven renewal, ABC and ABC Studios renegotiated to reduce the show’s pricey license fee and profit participation, with Horowitz and Kitsis both signing off on the deal. The was an important extension of the Disney brand, having featured a number of iconic characters during its run.
“Once Upon a Time has been an amazing journey for all of us at ABC Studios and for fans around the world,” said ABC Studios president Patrick Moran. “We’re so proud and appreciative of the hard work and creative talent that Eddy Kitsis, Adam Horowitz and their cast and crew brought to this show for seven magical seasons.”
The decision to wrap Once Upon a Time comes as ABC is also saying farewell this season to two more long-running, network-defining hits in Shonda Rhimes‘ Scandal as well as Warner Bros. Television-produced comedy The Middle.
On the pilot side, ABC has 13 dramas in the works for next season — including two straight-to-series procedurals (Nathan Fillion starrer The Rookie and Take Two) — as the Disney-owned network will have some very big shoes to fill with Once Upon a Time and Scandal gone on the drama side.
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