Netflix's latest hit TV show was actually cancelled last month

Watch Manifest online
(Image credit: NBC)

Netflix has made a hit out of Manifest – the airplane-based mystery drama that was canceled by the NBC network in the US last month. According to Nielsen, the show was the most-streamed show or film in the US for the week of 14-20 June, popular enough to beat the new Disney Plus Pixar movie Luca. That was the week after the series got the axe.

One month later, it's still number two on Netflix's US chart, at the time of writing – ahead of Netflix's own series like Sex/Life and Atypical. That suggests it's found a pretty strong audience on the streamer, though it's hard to draw too many conclusions from those charts. 

2.493 billion minutes of Manifest were streamed on Netflix during that one week according to Nielsen (via Deadline), which measures audience numbers from a sample size of American viewers. Netflix does not release its own streaming data in the same way, hence why these stats exist. 

That's from across two seasons of 29 40-minute episodes, which is actually why it's not terribly fair to compare it to Luca – in the same week, US viewers watched 1.57 million minutes of Pixar's latest, which is only a 96-minute movie, suggesting it was very successful.

Still, Manifest must surely be considered a smash by Netflix, as it almost doubled the next TV show on the chart – Downton Abbey (1.259 billion minutes), which is also streaming on the service. 

So why isn't the series continuing?

Well, from the outside looking in, Manifest's fate is a perfect storm of the ratings challenges of traditional TV combined with the power of streaming services to give series a second wind. As TV Line notes, Manifest's total weekly viewers declined 21% between seasons 2 and 3 on NBC, with an even steeper 31% in the advertising-friendly demographic of people watching. 

Warner Bros, which makes the show, tried to find it a new home but failed – Netflix was among those they spoke to about the show's future, according to the outlet.

The show had a six-season plan, but it looks like it's all over after three seasons. Manifest airs on Sky in the UK.

Netflix has saved shows in the past

It feels like we spend a lot of time hearing about shows Netflix has canceled these days – but this is one series where the streamer isn't responsible in any way for its demise. 

While Netflix does have a history of saving series from cancellation, like Lucifer, Designated Survivor or even bringing Arrested Development back from the dead, it does seem to be selective about what it picks up for more seasons. 

These days, too, Netflix is so deep into its own plans for original content that it arguably has less of a need to pick up other networks' shows – and besides, while Manifest might be a big hit on the US version of the streaming service, Netflix is a global streamer. In the UK, for example, where we're writing this, you can't stream Manifest on there.

That's bound to factor into its decisions about what's worth picking up. 

Still, it's an interesting illustration of how consumer habits work – instead of ignoring Manifest because it was canceled, it seemed to generate a lot more intrigue in what the show actually was. It's just a shame that it didn't turn into more seasons of the series.

Creator Jeff Rake is helping a hashtag campaign to save the show on social media – take a look below if you're curious.

Samuel Roberts

Samuel is a PR Manager at game developer Frontier. Formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor, he's an expert in Marvel, Star Wars, Netflix shows and general streaming stuff. Before his stint at TechRadar, he spent six years at PC Gamer. Samuel is also the co-host of the popular Back Page podcast, in which he details the trials and tribulations of being a games magazine editor – and attempts to justify his impulsive eBay games buying binges.