The Kiefer Sutherland-starring series will have a new showrunner, Law & Order: SVU alum Neal Baer, who had been tapped for the job last spring before ABC made the decision in May not to renew the political thriller. He is the series’ fifth showrunner. He and Sutherland are said to have hit it off and had been discussing the Season 3 creative direction while talks with Netflix were going on, with excitement among the show’s producers about what a premium version of the broadcast drama may look like.
The core cast of the series, including Sutherland, Kal Penn, Adan Canto and Italia Ricci, are set to return, with Maggie Q in talks to join them. Production on Season 3 is set to begin later this year for a 2019 premiere.
In Season 3, President Kirkman (Sutherland) will face a political reality… campaigning. What does it take to make a leader? What price will he be willing to pay? This season will explore today’s world of campaigning, smear tactics, debates, campaign finance and “fake news.” Democracy, as we know it, will hang in the balance.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to play President Kirkman for season 3 of ‘Designated Survivor’ with Netflix, eOne and Neal Baer,” Sutherland said. “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.”
The first two seasons of Designated Survivor on ABC were co-produced by eOne and ABC Studios. Going forward, the series will be solely produced by eOne, with ABC Studios no longer involved.
EOne started shopping Designated Survivor to other networks immediately following its somewhat surprising cancellation by ABC, and quickly entered discussions with streaming giant Netflix.
Talks, spearheaded by eOne Chief Strategy Officer Peter Micelli, were complex as Netflix rival Hulu had U.S. SVOD rights to the first two seasons of Designated Survivor, which aired on ABC. Netflix has the series internationally (outside of the U.S. and Canada), which made it a suitable home but the U.S. streaming rights had still to be untangled and numbers crunched to see whether eOne could produce the series for streaming.
An agreement with Hulu has been reached and Seasons 1 and 2 of Designated Survivor will come exclusively to Netflix in the U.S. and Canada this Fall.
“Timely and gripping, Designated Survivor has quickened the pulses of our Netflix members outside the US and Canada in its first two seasons,” said Netflix’s Bela Bajaria: “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 2 seasons to our US and Canadian members as well.”
Baer and Sutherland executive produce the series with series creator David Guggenheim, Mark Gordon, Kiefer Sutherland, Suzan Bymel, Simon Kinberg, Aditya Sood and Peter Noah.
“The continuation of the show via Netflix is a win-win for all involved,” said series executive producer and eOne president Gordon. “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.”
The political conspiracy drama began its run as one of ABC’s most promising series in a long time. The network screened the entire opening act at its 2016 upfront presentation where former 24 star Sutherland was greeted by advertisers with a huge ovation. In its first months on the air, Designated Survivor drew large audiences, setting DVR lift records and snagging the Critics’ Choice award for most exciting new series in its first season.
The series saw ratings declines in Season 2 but continued to be helped by solid delayed viewing increases.
“That was a hard one for us,” ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said in May about cancelling Designated Survivor. “It did well in delayed viewing but its Live+Same Day delivery in the 10 PM hour had become challenging.”
For a streaming service like Netflix, that is not an issue.
It’s been a great year for canceled series with four, Fox’s Lucifer and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, ABC’s Designated Survivor and Syfy’s The Expanse, finding new homes: Netflix (Lucifer, Designated Survivor), NBC (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and Amazon (The Expanse).