Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Real Reason Ink Master Briefly Got Canceled

When the news dropped that Paramount Network canceled the long-running reality competition show "Ink Master" in late 2020, fans were surprised to say the least. The show had completed 13 successful seasons and inspired three spin-offs, but then disappeared without any sort of finale or goodbye from longtime judges Dave Navarro, Chris Núñez, and Oliver Peck.

In retrospect, there were a lot of things going on at "Ink Master" that hinted at the show's abrupt departure, and while fans may not have had much warning, the crew may have known ahead of time. In fact, one employee of the show said the end was in sight when the show was put on "indefinite hiatus" in March 2020, although there were still plans for a Vegas finale at that point.

The series would eventually return with Season 14 on Paramount+ in September 2022, but what led to the original run's cancellation? in When it came down to it, there were a variety of factors that resulted in the show's unceremonious departure from the airwaves. Here are the real reasons that "Ink Master" was briefly canceled.

Paramount Network was dealing with a social responsibility backlash in 2020

One of the most visible factors in Ink the sudden cancelation of "Ink Master" was the controversy that erupted after photos of Oliver Peck in blackface emerged in January 2020. Peck had been a judge on the show since it premiered in 2012 and was recognizable for his distinct mustache and long hair.

When photos of Peck wearing dark makeup covering his face and elaborate tattoos on multiple occasions were shared by TMZ, the reaction was swift. While Peck responded to the incident with an apology, the offensive photos were more than enough for Paramount Network to remove him from the show.

The incident might have gone down as a footnote in "Ink Master" history if the Paramount Network hadn't found itself at the center of another racial justice-related issue just months later. In June 2020, Paramount canceled "Cops" (one of 2020's many high-profile cancelations) after 32 seasons amid nationwide protests for police reform following George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. In the wake of these events, Paramount was eager to reevaluate its programming, "Ink Master" included.

Ink Master was a casualty of Paramount Network's rebrand

While there were multiple reasons that "Ink Master" was initially canceled, the most important may have been related to Paramount Network's evolving brand identity.

While "Ink Master" didn't ever technically move networks, the network it was on changed hands more than once. "Ink Master" premiered on Spike TV, which had itself launched as a rebranding of The Nashville Network, or TNN, in 2003. Spike TV focused first on edgy, action-oriented programming such as UFC events before shifting to a reality TV focus in the 2010s. When "Ink Master" premiered in 2012, it joined Spike TV's lineup of reality shows like "Bar Rescue" and the recently acquired "Cops" to create a block of programming with a hyper-specific focus. In other words, "Ink Master" was a good fit for Spike. Not so much on Paramount.

In 2018, Spike TV was rebranded as the Paramount Network, and began to see more success with prestige programming like the network's flagship series "Yellowstone." When the Paramount Network announced it would become the Paramount Movie Channel in 2020, which would debut "52 original movies per year on the network," per Variety, time was running out for the remaining reality programming on the network. "Ink Master," "Wife Swap," and "Cops" were all canceled, while "Bar Rescue" and "Lip-Sync Battle" found homes on other channels.

Ink Master made some changes when Season 14 premiered

Season 14 marks a new era for "Ink Master." Some new faces joined the cast, most notably Good Charlotte's Joel Madden, who will be the host for this outing. The rockstar knows a thing or two about tattoos, and that's what attracted him to the project in the first place. "Tattoo culture has been a big part of my own development, identity, aesthetic, and life for over 25 years, so this feels natural for me, and I'm looking forward to becoming a part of the Ink Master tradition," he told Alt Press.

Elsewhere, Season 8 winner Ryan Ashley, Nikko Hurtado, and Ami James boarded the series as judges (per Variety). Hurtado is a renowned celebrity tattoo artist, while James is an industry veteran whose Love Hate Tattoos parlor was the subject of "TLC's "Miami Ink" reality series. Dave Navarro has also returned to the Paramount+ series, only this time as the Master of Chaos. As the name implies, the legendary Jane's Addiction guitarist's role is to cause chaos by giving the contestants unexpected challenges. 

Following its brief hiatus, the creators of "Ink Master" decided to bring the show back with a bang. According to Yahoo! Finance, Season 14 of "Ink Master" also boats the highest cash prize in the series' history with $250,000 up for grabs, as opposed to $100,000.