Star Trek: Lower Decks Canceled For A Ridiculous Reason?

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

Fans of Star Trek: Lower Decks were understandably upset to learn that Paramount had canceled the popular animated show. It seemed like each season was an improvement over the one before, and while everyone is hyped for the fifth and final season, we can’t help but wonder why Paramount would cancel a great series with a fiercely loyal fanbase. We may have a sad answer: streaming networks pay close attention to how many hours shows are streamed, and the short runtime of Lower Decks may have sealed its fate.

Streaming Hours

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What are streaming hours, though, and what do they have to do with Star Trek: Lower Decks? While all streaming platforms do this, Netflix has been leading the way in keeping track of the total number of hours that any given bit of content is collectively streamed by subscribers. For instance, they revealed that the Tim Burton Addams Family spinoff Wednesday had 507.7 million hours viewed last year, and that high number is almost certainly why the Jenna Ortega show was renewed for a second season.

Strange New Worlds

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Paramount+ has historically been less transparent about how many hours, but what they have said is very revealing. For example, as of July 20, 2023, Strange New Worlds had generated almost one billion viewing minutes for Paramount+. That was relatively early in the show’s second season, but with numbers like that, it’s no real surprise that Captain Pike and crew have already been renewed for both a third and fourth season.

Lower Decks Is A Shorter Show

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Then there’s the matter of Star Trek: Lower Decks. Paramount has been decidedly less talkative about the streaming numbers for this show, but fans never had much reason to worry about it before the show was unceremoniously canceled. The fandom was generally excited about each new episode and each season was better than the last, so where did it all go wrong?

Our theory begins with the fact that Lower Decks has always been designed as a short comedy series–its episodes were typically never longer than 30 minutes, with most of them being closer to the 23-minute mark. By comparison, Strange New Worlds is a longer show in the traditional Trek format, with episodes ranging from 46 to 62 minutes. Assuming that Paramount pays close attention to the streaming hours of each show when it comes to deciding what to renew and what to cancel, Lower Decks was always going to be at a disadvantage.

The Numbers

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Most Star Trek: Lower Decks episodes are half the length of a Strange New Worlds episode. That means that if the same number of people tuned into each episode of each show, Lower Decks would clock in at half the number of hours viewed. To a Paramount exec trying to figure out which shows will get the axe or not, it would be easy to view a show with much lower hours viewed as one that needed cancellation.

Just A Theory

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To be fair, this is just a theory on our part, but it’s one rooted in the grim realities of corporate decisions in the streaming age. If true, this also proves one of the biggest downsides of how streaming networks make decisions about your favorite shows. If one series could literally have the same number of viewers as a hit show and get canceled because of its short runtime, then it may be time for Paramount and other streamers to change how they green-light content.

However, hope springs eternal: fan campaigns are already underway to save Star Trek: Lower Decks, and the series might follow in Prodigy’s footsteps and find a new home on a new platform. It would only be fitting for that to happen and for Boimler, Mariner, and the rest of our favorite characters to beat the odds once again. If that happens, you’ll find us at the front of the line for the celebratory Chu Chu dance.

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