Manifest: Show creator details NBC cancellation and Netflix resurrection

Manifest is gearing up for its resurrection at Netflix for its final super-sized season after its NBC cancellation and now creator Jeff Rake is providing details on the series’ journey from its NBC demise to its Netflix rebirth.

A report from “The Hollywood Reporter” provides blow-by-blow details about how Manifest went from a canceled series at NBC to getting a chance to end its story properly at Netflix. Creator Jeff Rake admits that they were optimistic about a fourth season at NBC because fans were happy with season 3 and, although the show’s linear ratings were lower than its second season, they weren’t by much. Plus, Manifest had just debuted its first two seasons on Netflix in the U.S. and Canada and it was already charting extremely well. Manifest should’ve been on its way to a season 4 renewal.

Rake felt something was off when he wasn’t getting the normal notes from the network that you get when you transition from one season to another. Rake asked what they could do creatively to make things better but the show’s creative integrity wasn’t the issue. NBC was happy with the series and its creative direction. This was all purely financial and they just couldn’t make an economic case to keep it going so they lowered the boom.

“It’s about what’s not being said. The normal notes process as you transition from one season to another wasn’t happening. I wasn’t hearing much of anything from the network. I would ask my colleagues at the studio if there was anything that we could do to help, from a creative standpoint, to get to a favorable decision for future seasons of Manifest. We consistently heard back the issues on the table weren’t creative, they were financial. I think there was a lot of internal hand-wringing going on at NBC because I think they really did like the show and they were just trying to see if they could make an economic case for it. That was a tough period. There’s that old joke about the cat being on the roof and it was very clear to me the cat was on the roof.”

Rake soon got the news he dreaded when NBC announced the cancellation of Manifest on June 14, 2021. Thankfully, NBC was on board with shopping Manifest, seeing how well it was doing on Netflix, the streamer felt like the best option. Then there was the almost immediate fan reaction. The fans started #SaveManifest and it was better than any PR campaign generated by the network. 

“I’ve had shows canceled before and this is the first time that I experienced such a wave of support among the fandom. A small group of super fans formed a Twitter group and said, ‘We got you Jeff. #SaveManifest. The campaign is beginning.’ So before we even had a chance to lift a finger to figure out if we need a PR campaign to help save us, the fans rose up and created this campaign and spread the word — which was incredibly rewarding and heartening.”

Despite Manifest hitting number one on streaming and it not being merely sampled but watched in full, there were still obstacles. The Netflix deal wasn’t immediate because WBTV had already sold Manifest internationally in several key territories and that was an initial stumbling block for the streamer. According to Netflix head of global TV Bela Bajaria, “What we really strive for is to have great shows available to all our members globally. We really want all our members to have the full benefit of the service, so we wanted Warner Bros. to take the time to get all those rights globally.”

Another concern was the lapsed cast contracts. This is often a point of no return since actors move on to new jobs quickly, especially in TV. Netflix reached out to the main casts’ representatives fairly quickly and, surprisingly, they were all pretty much game for a return. The actors extended their options and even as the extensions began to expire, they were still willing to make their new deals for more Manifest to work.

NBC re-entering the game to get Manifest back wasn’t as problematic as it could’ve been. Rake was thankful for a potential plan B if he needed one but it was clear to him that Netflix was the best bet for the series moving forward. According to Rake, “While it would be easy to go to a place of ‘I told you so’ spite, no, truthfully, as soon as I found out that we had a lifeline potentially at NBC, I felt nothing but gratitude. They had always been champions of the show and they genuinely wanted it back. But at the same time, it soon became clear there was just a more compelling case to be made moving the show over to Netflix and starting and ending with the legions of new fans that had emerged in the Netflix universe.”

But why did Netflix save Manifest? Was it the #SaveManifest campaign? It helps, but no. Was it the petition or letters or media coverage? Added bonus, but not it either. As it turns out, Manifest got a second life based on hard numbers that Netflix typically doesn’t reveal. The platform, in a rare move, told “The Hollywood Reporter” that 25 million accounts in the U.S. and Canada watched the show in its first 28 days on the service. The series also relentlessly stayed in the platform’s Top 10 for 71 days since its debut and was number one for 19 of those days. The show’s completion rate, something Netflix is also usually guarded about, was very strong and meant well for its worldwide expansion. The audience was staying with the show and not just sampling it. That’s why Netflix saved Manifest.

Rake gave Netflix three different options to end the show which included a two-hour movie, a six-episode limited series, or a full season. Netflix went with the 20-episode final season although Rake says the finer details are still being worked out. The season will likely be split into two parts, with the first probably arriving in late 2022. The global rights are being solved by having some foreign rights being bought back while others are being waited out. The show’s budget will also get a boost. It’s expected to be well north of the $4-5 million per episode that NBC produced the show for. 

At the end of the day, this is a sweet deal for all involved with Manifest and it definitely was a deal that was fought for by the fans and the creative minds that believed in its future. Now Manifest can end as it was originally intended and its journey to this point is just as captivating as the central mystery that has been at the heart of the show since it made its debut.

What are YOUR thoughts on the journey of Manifest from NBC to Netflix?

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

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