UPDATED: Longmire, A&E Network’s most-watched original drama series of all time, will be ending its run on the cable network after three seasons. In a surprising move, the network has opted not to renew the series for a fourth season. I hear Warner Horizon, the studio behind Longmire, will be shopping it immediately. “We would like to thank the phenomenal cast, crew and producers of Longmire, along with our partners at Warner Horizon, for their tireless work on three seasons of quality dramatic storytelling,” A&E said in a statement. “We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved together.”
In its second season, the series, based on Craig Johnson’s mystery novels, averaged nearly 6 million viewers, up 9% from Season 1. Longmire‘s viewership has dipped only slightly in Season 3 to 5.6 million viewers (in most current ratings, up from the previous 4.6 million season average), despite its lead-in, Criminal Minds repeats, being a lot weaker (-72%) than the series’ lead-in last year, original drama The Glades. The cancellation of that series got a strong reaction from fans; the axing of Longmire, which has a wide fan base, will likely not go well with them either. Especially since they are being left handing by the recent Season 3 finale, which ended with a cliffhanger, the sound of a fired shotgun. (I’ll avoid spoilers for those who have not watched the episode.) Longmire’s audience skews older than some other A&E dramas like Bates Motel, but it brings more eyeballs than any other scripted show on the network. Even with the decline, Longmire, starring Robert Taylor and Katee Sackhoff, logged A&E’s largest viewership for any series this year behind only flagship Duck Dynasty.
There has been a drive at A+E Networks (as well as other cable network groups) to own a large portion of their scripted programming, which was also the impetus behind the launch of A+E Studios. Both Longmire and The Glades came from outside suppliers, Warner Horizon and Fox TV Studios, respectively.
After a foray into scripted programming, the network appears to be scaling back, refocusing on its bread-and-butter unscripted fare. Besides Psycho prequel Bates Motel, the network only has the upcoming 10-episode remake of The Returned on the scripted side following the cancellations of Longmire and Glades and the demise of Those Who Kill. A&E’s head of scripted programming, Tana Nugent Jamieson, just moved to A+E Studios as SVP. The network has one scripted executive left, VP Drama Development Gabriel Marano.