The death of a television show used to be a simple affair: Networks would gather at the end of the season, evaluate ratings and budgets, and decide which shows would come back in the fall. With rare exceptions, that decision was final, because with so few networks producing original programming, most axed shows had no other options. But when NBC announced the cancellation of Hannibal on June 22nd after the third season was barely three episodes in, it was hard for fans to know if they should even bother to mourn it. With so many basic cable and online streaming networks hungry to house established original shows, the life cycle of the marginal cult TV hit is growing longer and longer.
Hannibal’s cancellation may stick: Because different companies own the rights to different Thomas Harris books in the Hannibal Lecter series it’s based on, it was questionable whether the show was going to be able to adapt The Silence of the Lambs for its fourth season, which would be the next logical step in its timeline. While the show’s creator Bryan Fuller has promised creative workarounds regardless of the situation, the uncertainty might deter other networks from picking it up. Nonetheless, Hannibal’s production company, Gaumont TV, is shopping it around for a new home, and critics are speculating that NBC made the announcement early in order to give it more time to find one. The show’s ratings on NBC were too small to keep it alive on a major network, but its fanatical viewers might be incentive enough for a smaller one. As has been proven by the resurrection of shows as varied as The Killing, Community, and Arrested Development in recent years, if there’s one thing smaller networks value as much as ratings, it’s an established fanbase.