Hunting for truth: Is Disney+ connected to ‘Shadowhunters’ being cancelled?
Since Shadowhunters was cancelled, we’ve been talking a lot about why the show is so important and why it deserves to be saved. But it’s also important that we return to looking at why it may have been cancelled in the first place. And why it hasn’t been saved since, despite a palpable outcry and a substantial fanbase cheering for its survival.
We’ve always maintained that there was something a little off about the manner with which the show was cancelled, with Freeform stating that it simply “couldn’t make the economics work” after Netflix pulled out of a production deal with Constantin Film.
That’s included a couple of subsequent announcements concerning the show that are disproportionately blasé about the situation by comparison to the passionate #SaveShadowhunters campaign that’s been active since June. Netflix VP of original content Cindy Holland casually suggested that despite receiving “100 emails or more” from fans daily about saving Shadowhunters, the SVOD studio isn’t in talks to save it.
And Constantin Film recently dropped an even more casual announcement that it isn’t “possible for this version” of the show to continue in a strange Trojan Horse of a post about the show wrapping “principal photography.”
Understandably, fans have been frustrated about all of this at every step. But the past few weeks have seen rising speculation between fans that there may be even more behind the show’s cancellation and ambiguous future – and it may be wearing a pair of mouse ears.
Ladies, gentlemen, Nephilim, and Downworlders – it’s time to adjust those tin foil hats because we need to address (and theorize wildly about) the Disney-shaped elephant in the room here. But first, some background. In 2015 when Disney first launched the rebranded ABC Family as Freeform, Shadowhunters was the perfect show to help move it along.
It had a ready made fan base thanks to the popular young adult book series upon which the show is based and Shadowhunters also showcases the sort of dark, queer undertones that the supremely popular ABC Family hit show Pretty Little Liars boasted.
Basically, it was a win. Though live ratings dropped after the popular first season, it maintains a sizeable fandom (and leads social media engagement charts for fantasy and sci-fi shows), mostly thanks to the SVOD Freeform Go and the show’s international presence as a Netflix title.
The p*$$ing contest between Disney and Netflix
As everyone is likely aware, the House of Mouse is planning to launch its own SVOD service in 2019 and the two colossal media companies are currently duking it out to dominate the SVOD market. Disney is removing the majority of its content from Netflix (Marvel Netflix Originals withstanding) and the company gained even stronger standing in June when it acquired Fox.
Disney is making moves that gives it flexibility and leverage – clearly it’s looking to utilize the possession of a number of established and popular properties with ready-made passionate followings who will eagerly sign up for Disney+ when launched.
As this Observer article suggested of Disney’s battle plan in entering the SVOD market, “There is money in maintaining and growing the size and engagement level of an audience . . . The company knows how to merchandise and integrate properties and assets so as to grow the overall size of the financial pot.”
Which brings us back to Shadowhunters. According to USA Today, a big part of why the show was cancelled came down to Freeform negotiating a deal for lesser episodes of the show with Constantin Films – a plan that jeopardized the existing deal with Netflix.
It should be added that when Netflix acquires the streaming rights for a title such as Shadowhunters, it pays a large portion of the show’s production costs and signs a contract for the property outlining a set number of expected episodes per season.
Part of Disney’s plan?
On Twitter, a convivial gentlemen by the name of Michael John Donahue speculated this could be the case on a compelling thread regarding the Disney+ theory.
“I think two things happened. Netflix was caught blindsided by Freeform wanting fewer episodes. Freeform (Disney) is becoming a direct competitor to Netflix next year. Disney had success with Shadowhunters launching Freeform so want to use it to launch the new SVOD.”
He backed up his theory by pointing to how “CBS Access used Star Trek to launch their SVOD” and added that Disney could be doing the same with Shadowhunters. “It won’t only be Shadowhunters, but it is low hanging fruit for them to use with other enticements to sign up Disney SVOD subscribers.”
There’s no definitive proof to confirm any of this so by all means take it with a pinch of salt, but it’s certainly interesting to muse upon. Particularly considering that fans have long speculated that S3B of Shadowhunters could air in January 2019. As Malec-Crazed Author speculated in its extensive outline of this theory on Tumblr, this potential premiere date could also work out very nicely for Disney in tying in with the launch of its SVOD service.
“Premiering the new season in January 2019 would mean it would wrap up around the end of March. The fandom outcry would be hugely noisy, DisFlix [Disney+] could announce they’d picked up S4 for an Autumn premiere upon the launch of the streaming service.
“They could go right into production and the hype of seeing S4 being produced over the spring/summer would keep the buzz going right up through (to) launch, especially when coupled with competent promotion of the show and/or streaming service.”
It’s certainly a persuasive theory and one that could perhaps bring hope to fans. It’s just possibly not the best case scenario all round, particularly as many are likely grimacing at the thought of Shadowhunters being continually mishandled by Disney moving forward.
But as Malec-Crazed Author also contended, Satan himself could offer “to host a S4 viewing party in hell” and fans would all likely “volunteer to bring the chips and dips. Let’s just assume most of us will go to whichever port offers our show shelter from the storm.”
Amen to that, honey.
Persuasive theory though it may be, it’s certainly not enough for fans to feel comfortable or confident enough to sit back on their campaign any time soon. The fight continues regardless of whether it looks likely that Disney could offer a hand to save the show in the future.