Why Was The Following Season 4 Canceled?

The Following told the story of Ryan Hardy, a very damaged man who helped bring down serial killer Joe Carroll. When Joe escapes from prison, the FBI calls on Hardy to help hunt him down again. It turns out, however, that Joe is the least of their problems; a crew of killers who idolize Joe are doing his evil bidding.

The Following was a strong performer for FOX during its first season, but ratings dipped steadily during seasons 2 and 3. Viewership, however, isn’t the only factor a network considers when setting its lineup. Here are all the reasons for the cancellation of The Following Season 4.

The Following Season 4 Cancellation

The Following premiered on FOX in January 2013 and was an immediate hit, pulling in 10 million viewers. The rest of the first season leveled off in viewership at about 8 million viewers, with 2.6 million falling in the key 18-49 year old demographic. Networks prize this demographic because this is the age category that has the most disposable income, therefore is more valuable to advertisers buying commercial space. Ratings for season 2 leveled off at around 5.2 million with only 1.8 in the key demo and season 3 fell further, leveling off at 3 million with only 1.1 million in the key demo.

So What Happened?

This ratings dip meant that FOX had to sell ad space for less money while production expenses went up. It is important to remember that Kevin Bacon, a very well known film actor starred in The Following, received $175,000 per episode making him the 3rd highest paid actor in a drama series. Without the income generated from syndication, which usually only occurs after a show has produced 100 episodes, FOX was reliant almost entirely on the show’s commercial ad space for revenue.

Cult followings can be reason enough to leave a low rated show on the air. Life on streaming services and merchandising can help boost revenue, but the loyalty of the fanbase for The Following wasn’t so cut and dry. The show received a lot of criticism for its graphic violence and sexual content. It also had intricate story arcs that confused many viewers. Creating a mystery with a ticking clock that goes on for years can frustrate fans unless they fall in love with the characters. In the case of The Following, most of the characters were revealed to be somewhere on the evil spectrum making it difficult for the audience to care.

The Mistake

Deep in Season 3, The Following killed off one of the main characters and tried shifting gears to another character in the hopes of keeping the show alive. The audience didn’t buy in and the show got canceled within two weeks of the story shift. Producers hoped that the show would continue as a Netflix Original. Other rumors said Hulu would pick it up, but none of this came to be.


The Following Season 4 would have had to take the narrative in a direction that essentially would have made it a different show. It’s true that it has now become relatively commonplace for one venue to cancel a show only for another one to pick it up. But by killing off one of its main characters so late in the game, The Following made it difficult for new venues to capitalize on a known entity. It was just cheaper and easier to create new content. The tale it told in three seasons was full of twists and turns.

Perfect for binge-watching, The Following in its entirety is streaming on Netflix!

Recommended reads: If you are looking for binge-worthy shows but don’t know where to start, check out our collection of the best Netflix original series streaming right now!


  1. Margaret
    • Jessica Combs


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