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The Real Reason The Magicians Was Cancelled

Class is officially cancelled at Brakebills Academy. According to Deadline, Syfy is ready to pull the plug on its fantasy thriller The Magicians after 5 seasons of magical hijinks. The sudden announcement means that the season currently airing on the genre cabler will be the series' final act, with the conclusion scheduled to air on April 1st.

The series, based on Lev Grossman's fantasy trilogy of the same name, was created by John McNamara (Trumbo) and showrunner Sera Gamble (Supernatural). It stars Jason Ralph as Quentin, Stella Maeve as Julia, Olivia Taylor Dudley as Alice, Hale Appleman as Eliot, and Arjun Gupta as Penny. For years, The Magicians was one of SyFy's top performers, garnering respectable ratings by the now-industry standard "Live +7" metric which takes into account delayed viewing. According to reporting by TV Line, the writing team did not go into Season 5 with the knowledge that it would be the series' last, but Gamble was reportedly prepared for that possibility and believes the now-series finale will serve as a satisfying coda.

Gamble also addressed the series' fate in a recent chat with TV Insider. "We had the sense going into this season that Syfy... was kind of hitting the point of 'The cup is full and there's no more room,'" Gamble said. "We reluctantly just decided, 'Well at least we have this season finale that was crafted to also be a series finale.' It was kind of always going to pull double duty." At least it sounds like the creative team behind the show thought ahead far enough to give their work a fitting send off, but given the past success of the series, The Magicians' loyal fan base must be wondering, "Why the sudden cancellation?" The answer is simple: money.

Declining ratings and rising costs to blame for sudden cancellation

As is so often the case, The Magicians was ultimately done in by a one-two punch of declining ratings and rising costs. The show hit its ratings high water mark in its second season, and has been shedding viewers even as production costs have blown up. Over the course of the current season, The Magicians averages 415,000 viewers in the valuable 18-49 ad demographic. For most cable programs that's a healthy haul, but an aging genre show like The Magicians has to contend with other drags on profitability.

Very few Syfy shows survive beyond the 5 season mark. Even well-regarded series like Dark Matter and The Expanse proved too expensive to justify an extended run on the frugal cabler (the latter was saved at the last minute by Amazon's deep pockets). With other network staples like Van Helsing also reaching their conclusion this year, Syfy finds itself at a major crossroads for original programming.

Pursuant to the terms of a library deal that Syfy sister company UCP holds with Netflix, The Magicians picks up an ample portion of its viewership from streaming. The possibility remains that Netflix could intervene to save The Magicians, but given the associated costs, you probably shouldn't hold your breath.