‘Hannibal’: Was Online Piracy a Factor in the Show’s Demise?

     March 18, 2016

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Though the cast, as well as creator Bryan Fuller, have made it clear that they would all be happy to carry on with more Hannibal, it sadly seems like it will never be. After NBC cancelled the series following its third season finale, there were rumors of a streaming service picking the show up (particularly Amazon, who owns the streaming rights to the first two seasons), but nothing came to pass. After months of agony (and despite a petition signed by 50,000 fans), it seems like we might have to give up (though I say never say die!).

Recently, the show’s executive producer Martha De Laurentiis told Yahoo that she believes online pirates are responsible for the show’s low ratings. As reported in that story, Hannibal was the 5th most illegally downloaded show in 2013. De Laurentiis said,


“When nearly one-third of your audience for Hannibal is coming from pirated sites… You don’t have to know calculus to do the math. If a show is stolen, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to fairly compensate a crew and keep a series in production.”

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Image via NBC

It’s a tough argument, though, when so many popular shows are affected by piracy, but remain on the air. In the case of shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, live numbers are strong enough to combat the siphoning off of illegal downloads. For others, like Mr. Robot, USA might make the argument that growing the fanbase in any way, at least to start, outweighs the negatives. HBO had that stance for awhile regarding Game of Thrones, but since they launched HBO Now and have allowed for a world-wise simulcast, they’re hoping that will cut down on some of the piracy.

Still, what about Hannibal? An increasingly global audience for these series makes it tricky, as far as licensing goes, for networks to currently make their series available quickly all over the world. Though NBC put Hannibal up on their native U.S. player the day after episodes aired, it wasn’t available on a platform like Hulu for at least a week after (as I recall, though let me know if this is false). Native players for most sites aren’t usually ideal ways to watch series, but the other part of it is, neither is airing a series at 10 p.m. on a Thursday night against one of the strongest blocks on television (meaning ABC).

So was it pirates, or the combination of it being a niche series that had a large international fanbase? Or to De Laurentiis’ point, was it because the viewership was already small, and therefore it mattered all the more that so many viewers weren’t tuning in via countable means? It’s hard to know, and of course, Hannibal was a series that somehow survived for three seasons on broadcast when it could have probably flourished more elsewhere, although we can never know for sure.


For now, it remains in our hearts (even though Hugh Dancy’s tease about the potential Season 4 storyline makes me want this to happen more than ever). Also, let us know your theories on the show’s demise. Was it just too beautiful to live?

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Image via NBC

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Image via NBC


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