Despite a loyal fan base and consistent rave reviews from critics, NBC's Hannibal failed to catch on with larger audiences. The ratings were troubling almost from the beginning, with many predicting the series wouldn't make it past season 1. Thankfully, Hannibal's status as an international co-production led to NBC renewing it for seasons 2 and 3. Unfortunately, the numbers did not improve in season 3, resulting in its cancellation last summer. Or at least that's what most assumed to be the culprit. According to producer Martha De Laurentiis, Hannibal's cancellation had a lot do with online piracy.
In a recent op-ed published by The Hill, De Laurentiis asserts that at least partial responsibility for Hannibal not getting renewed for season 4 rests with those who chose to illegally download copies of the show's episodes instead of watching the original airing on NBC or catching up via a legal streaming option. To this end, De Laurentiis points out Hannibal's status as the fifth most pirated show of 2013. She also urges government leaders to take stronger steps to combat piracy and offers the following final assessment of the situation:
"Did pirates kill “Hannibal”? Unfortunately, that is a cliffhanger that might last for a while. With more than 2 million viewers watching our show illegally, it’s hard not to think online pirates were, at the very least, partly responsible for hundreds of crew members losing their jobs and millions of fans — who watched the show legitimately — mourning the loss of a beloved program."
Is De Laurentiis correct in her belief that online piracy contributed to Hannibal's demise? It's hard to say definitively one way or the other, but there are counterpoints to be made. For one, Game of Thrones has been the most pirated show for multiple years now, and its viewership on HBO only manages to increase with each passing year. This suggests that being stolen does not necessarily correlate to not being watched on TV -- or it doesn't as far as a show like Game of Thrones is concerned. Secondly, of the two million people De Laurentiis cites as having pirated Hannibal, one may surmise that not all of them live in the United States or in an area where a legal streaming option is necessarily available. While that complicates the justification of procuring art and media illegally, it also raises an interesting question as to how that would impact the ratings for Hannibal as far as NBC was concerned.
At the end of the day, whether piracy helped kill Hannibal or not, what matters is that it's gone. Most of the cast has moved on to other projects, as has showrunner Bryan Fuller. Whether the same can be said for the many other people working behind the scenes is uncertain. The loss of those jobs and livelihoods are what De Laurentiis is lamenting along with the end of the television show in question. As far as the show is concerned, barring a surprise revival at some point in the future, it seems unlikely Will and Hannibal's story will be resolved. Did they survive the series finale? The world will probably never know, and that's a shame.
Hannibal seasons 1-3 are currently available on DVD and Blu-ray, while seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Amazon.
Source: The Hill