Bad news for fans of The Expanse: Deadline is reporting that Syfy has not renewed the show for a fourth season. This might not be the end of the show, however: Alcon Television Group, the studio behind the series, plans to shop it around to other outlets.
In a statement to The Verge, President of Entertainment Networks for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Chris McCumber said that the decision not to renew the show “was an incredibly difficult decision,” and thanked the cast, crew, and fans for bringing the series to television. Series co-author Daniel Abraham tells The Verge that “the entertainment industry is astoundingly complex,” and that “maybe someone else have a different path for it. But if not, season three ends strong and we can go out proud.”
Based on the novel series by James S.A. Corey (the pen name for Abraham and Ty Franck), The Expanse is set two centuries in the future after humans have colonized the solar system. Tensions have sprung up between the inhabitants of Earth, Mars, and the asteroid belt, and when an ice-hauling ship is destroyed, it kicks off a chain of events that bring the factions to the brink of war, with the crew of a spaceship called the Rocinante in the center of it all. The show is currently in its third season.
Deadline says that Syfy’s decision not to renew the show reportedly comes down to its terms: it only has the first-run linear rights for the US: “That puts an extraordinary amount of emphasis on live, linear viewing,” says the report. This is a problem thanks to the rapidly changing nature of television-viewing in recent years: more people prefer to watch their shows on-demand via streaming services, and the only way you can currently keep up with The Expanse online is to sign in with your cable subscription, or to buy the episodes off of Amazon, Google, or iTunes. The first two seasons of the show is also available on Amazon Prime in the US, and on Netflix, internationally.
Word of the show’s cancelation doesn’t come as much of a shock: while it’s earned considerable critical acclaim, the project hasn’t attracted huge numbers, and its ratings have slipped in recent years. The show joins the ranks of other series that Syfy has cut: the network cancelled Dark Matter last year, while it ordered two final seasons for its other space opera show, Killjoys. Syfy’s fantasy show The Magicians was given a fourth season order earlier this year, and it will have another big space opera show coming: Nightflyers, based off of a novella by George R.R. Martin, is currently in production and is expected to hit sometime this fall.
But The Expanse is in a slightly different position from other canceled shows: Alcon completely owns the property, and has the ultimate say in the show’s future. Alcon Entertainment co-founders and co-CEOs Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson told Deadline that while they were “very disappointed the show will not be returning to Syfy,” they “fully plan to pursue other opportunities for this terrific and original IP.”
The larger streaming-television industry has demonstrated that there’s an incredible appetite for high-concept, story-driven science fiction shows, and that might be good news for the future of the series. Apple recently put an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy into development, while Amazon is working on adaptations of Iain M Banks’ Culture series, Ringworld, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, and others. Netflix has also recently gotten into the game with similar science fiction shows, Altered Carbon and Lost in Space. With three seasons of the show already out, a devoted fanbase, and plenty more source material to adapt, the show could be an attractive project for networks or streaming services looking for their own original content. But this doesn’t always work out: when Syfy canceled Dark Matter last year, creator Joseph Mallozzi shopped the series around to other outlets, including MGM’s Stargate-centric streaming service, Stargate Command, to no avail.
In the meantime, even if the show doesn’t get picked up at another outlet, there’s still the book series, which just saw its seventh installment hit bookstores in December. The eighth installment, Tiamat’s Wrath, is scheduled for release on December 4th this year, and the final book in the series is expected to come out next year.