The real reasons Agent Carter was canceled

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is nothing short of a pop culture phenomenon whose movies have grossed billions, but things have been a bit bumpier for the MCU on TV. Its Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series has done time on the ratings bubble, and Agent Carter, starring Hayley Atwell as the WWII-era spy with a Captain America connection, aired for two short seasons in 2015 and 2016 before being recently canceled by ABC. What went wrong for Agent Carter?

Hayley Atwell got another gig

During the middle of Agent Carter's second season, Atwell apparently saw the writing on the wall and landed herself a role in another TV series, a legal drama—also for ABC—called Conviction. Because Agent Carter had filmed short seasons, network brass told her she could do both, but once Conviction got picked up in May 2016 (while Agent Carter continued to attract fewer and fewer eyeballs), Atwell's future became clear.

It was part of a failed TV scheduling experiment

ABC's outgoing president of entertainment, Paul Lee, had a unique programming strategy of taking hits off the air for months at a time in the middle of the season and giving their timeslots to new shows—particularly "bridge" series or ones similar to the benched show. For example, the fantasy series Galavant stood in for the fantasy series Once Upon a Time, as did its spinoff, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. (Neither of those shows were a hit.) Agent Carter did the same thing when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. took a midseason break, but Lee's successor, Channing Dungey, has announced she won't be employing the bridge idea. That means the network doesn't need a plug-in series like Agent Carter anymore, and will just limit the time S.H.I.E.L.D. is on hiatus.

Not enough people watched it

At the end of the day, critical acclaim and a prominent pedigree don't much matter if the ratings are bad, and ultimately, Agent Carter was taken out of service because it didn't attract many viewers. Its premiere episode in January 2015 attracted a respectable 6.9 million and in the final TV ratings for the 2014-15 season, Agent Carter ranked in the top 30 of shows watched by the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic. Ratings plummeted in season 2, however—the show ranked #96 in the demographic. Just over 2 million viewers tuned in for Agent Carter's final assignment.