Netflix has canceled its adaptation of Altered Carbon after two seasons, according to Variety, marking the end of yet another big-budget adaptation for the streaming service.
According to Deadline, the cancellation was decided back in April, and was made for the company’s usual cost / benefit reasons. In other words, Altered Carbon’s fate isn’t apparently COVID-19 related — as has been the case with other recent Netflix cancellations, like The Society and I Am Not Okay With This, both of which had second season plans nixed “due to circumstances created by COVID,” according to a Netflix statement at the time.
The fact that Altered Carbon got the axe isn’t too surprising, though. The show debuted in 2018 as a marquee series for Netflix: a gritty, adult sci-fi series based on a popular series of novels with a sky-high budget (season one star Joel Kinnaman described it as “a bigger budget than the first three seasons of Game of Thrones”), big action sequences and bigger philosophical issues about what it meant to be human.
Unfortunately, the show debuted to middling praise, and while it clearly did well enough that Netflix was willing to roll the dice on a second season (which debuted earlier this year), the series clearly was hit with a smaller budget for its second time around, with fewer episodes and less flashy sets and effects — but if anything, the second season made even less of an impact. Altered Carbon just wasn’t going to be the next Game of Thrones, which meant that Netflix wasn’t going to keep spending HBO-levels of money on it.
It’s a cycle reminiscent of Altered Carbon’s preceding big-budget sci-fi Netflix series: Sense8, which cost an estimated (and eye-watering) $9 million per episode, making it one of the most expensive TV shows ever made before it was also canceled by Netflix after two seasons.
But unlike Altered Carbon, Sense8 had garnered a deeply dedicated fanbase — which, while apparently not big enough to justify the continued expense of the show on Netflix’s accounting sheet, was enough to get the streaming company to bring the series back for a final two-hour special to wrap up the series.
In the earlier days of Netflix’s original content empire, the streamer was far more likely to keep shows around for several seasons, content to give each series the chance to find an audience over time. But as Netflix’s output has exploded from a handful of shows and films to hundreds, there’s far more competition and a much lower bar for success. The result is that more Netflix originals — especially expensive ones like Altered Carbon — have been canceled after just a season or two.