Designated Survivor, Canceled by ABC in May, Lives On as Netflix Orders Season 3

The Kiefer Sutherland drama is the fifth axed show this year to find a new home

ABC canceled Designated Survivor after ratings erosion and behind-the-scenes turmoil. Ben Mark Holzberg/ABC
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ABC canceled Designated Survivor in May, but the Kiefer Sutherland drama has just lived up to its title, as it has been given a last-minute reprieve and will move to a new home: Netflix.

The streaming service has ordered a third season of the series, which will go into production this fall and air next year. That makes Designated Survivor the fifth canceled series this year to find a new home.

Netflix, which had held international rights to the show outside of the U.S. and Canada, will now air the series worldwide. Designated Survivor’s first two seasons, which had streamed exclusively on Hulu in U.S., will move to Netflix this fall in the U.S. and Canada.

The show, which stars Sutherland as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who suddenly becomes president after an attack on the U.S. Capitol kills everyone ahead of him in the presidential line of succession, had a big debut on ABC two years ago. But after ratings erosion and behind-the-scenes turmoil (the series had four showrunners in just two seasons), the network canceled it in May.

“The continuation of the show via Netflix is a win-win for all involved. The story of President Kirkman and those around him has not been fully told and we look forward to working with our new partner in continuing the show for a global audience,” said executive producer Mark Gordon in a statement.

Sutherland said he was “thrilled” to be returning for Season 3, adding in a statement, “I believe this format will allow us to continue to delve deeply into storylines and issues concerning the American electorate that were not previously possible.”

ABC Studios, which had been a co-producer of the show alongside Entertainment One for the first two seasons, will no longer be involved with the series. For its 10-episode third season, Designated Survivor will have a new showrunner (its fifth) in Neal Baer.

“The international audience for the show drove our interest to bring the show to the world as a Netflix original for its third season and we are excited to bring the first two seasons to our U.S. and Canadian members as well,” said Bela Bajaria, vp of content for Netflix, in a statement.

Designated Survivor is the fifth canceled show to move to a new outlet this year. Previously, Netflix picked up Lucifer, which had been canceled by Fox after three seasons, and Amazon rescued The Expanse after Syfy pulled the plug. Brooklyn Nine-Nine will relocate from Fox to NBC this season, and Last Man Standing, which ABC axed last year, has moved to Fox.

The show’s third season will be 10 episodes, but in an Adweek cover story two years ago, Sutherland said he would never want to make anything less than a full, 22-episode season of a series, at least for a broadcast network.

“You can’t expect the company to really get behind you unless you’re going to produce enough material to make it worth their fucking while,” said the actor, who filmed 24 episodes per season on 24.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV/Media Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.