Disney+ has cancelled Willow after just one season. Or has it?

Are the best streaming services giving shows enough time to attract audiences?

Willow on Disney Plus
(Image credit: Disney Plus)

Update, 18 March: posting on Twitter, Willow's lead writer Jon Kasdan says the Deadline report isn't correct: the show is only on "hiatus" and will return, but not in the next 12 months.

Were you planning to begin a long term relationship with Willow, the live-action Disney+ series based on the 80s film of the same name? You might change your mind when you discover that the first season is now the only season. According to Deadline, Disney has decided not to make another series so the eight episodes online are all you're going to get.

The reason is likely to be our old favourite, numbers. The show has been a critical hit and is currently sitting with 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it appears that it's been included in the Disney cost-cutting that's going on. 

I understand the desire to cancel poorer performing shows. But I can't help thinking that Disney+, and other streamers, may be throwing some potentially very big babies out with the bathwater. 

Some TV shows need time to find their tribe

You know Breaking Bad. One of the greatest TV shows of all time, 10.3 million viewers watching live for the finale, yada yada yada. Even the Talking Bad spinoff chat show got 4.4 million people watching. 

The thing is, though, Breaking Bad probably wouldn't have made it if Season 1 aired in 2023 rather than 2008. According to the Hollywood Reporter, it only cracked the 2 million mark once during the first four seasons.

The first two episodes of Willow had 2.1 million viewers.

It's a slightly different era, I know, and Breaking Bad was a terrestrial show that then moved online rather than a show made in the streaming age. But the point's pretty clear: had the guys with spreadsheets been in charge, Walter White's story would have been an awful lot shorter.

I worry that if TV creators keep doing this – and Disney+ is far from the only or the worst offender – they're putting short-term savings above long-term love. These days I don't tend to watch new franchises unless I'm sure they're going to get more than one series; I don't want to invest all that time in getting to know and care about the characters and the overriding story arc if I'm only going to get a few hours out of it. And talking to my friends, I'm not the only person who thinks the same. 

I know these shows are expensive to make, which is why Netflix ummed and ahhhed so much over whether to greenligiht a second series of the superb Sandman. But maybe, just maybe, it might be wiser for streamers to invest more in shows with long-term potential. That's likely to have a better long-term result than, for example, giving old men tens of millions to make comedy specials of diminishing quality for increasingly old audiences.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).