EXCLUSIVE: The BBC-Cinemax series Hunted won’t go beyond its current freshman season after BBC One opted not to renew the espionage drama for a second season. But Cinemax is working with series creator Frank Spotnitz on a new incarnation of the show about spy Sam Hunter (Melissa George). “We are making plans with creator and executive producer Frank Spotnitz and star Melissa George to present a new chapter in the Sam Hunter mythology,” Kary Antholis, President, HBO Miniseries and Cinemax Programming, said in a statement to Deadline. “We are very pleased with what Hunted has done for Cinemax’s brand and are very excited about what lies ahead.”
Because of the project’s setup – BBC originally commissioned eight episodes from Shine-owned British production company Kudos Film and Television before Cinemax came on board as producer/U.S. distributor — I hear continuing the series in its current form proved impossible without partner BBC. That has led to Cinemax brass looking for another way to keep the premise and the Sam Hunter character alive while also assuming greater creative control. In a complex co-production agreement like the one on Hunted, it is hard for each of the partners to realize their vision for the show as decisions are often made by compromise. Additionally, for a pay cable network, doing a series with a public broadcaster like the BBC imposes certain restrictions on the content that could be featured.
Hunted earned some of the best reviews for a Cinemax show. Ratings-wise it’s done OK, pulling in 250,000 viewers for its premiere last month. While that was below the Season 1 and Season 2 openers of Cinemax’s Strike Back (567,000 and 390,000, respectively), I hear Hunted is a major on-demand draw for the network. So far, the first two episodes have averaged a total of 1.7 million viewers each. Last Friday’s Episode 4 was up 6% from the previous week.
As for BBC’s decision to drop Hunted after Season 1, network sources point to the series’ ratings declines from 4.5 million viewers for the series premiere to 2.6 million for the most recent sixth episode, noting that the series hasn’t been able to find “mainstream audience.” But, like in the U.S., Hunted is doing well in time-shifted viewing, adding some 40% to its Live+ ratings via DVR and on-demand. I also hear the decision may be part of a larger shift in the types of shows the public broadcaster plans to focus on. It comes at a time of turmoil at the BBC, which has been at the center of several scandals that led to the resignation of the new director general, George Entwistle, after 54 days on the job.
At TCA this summer, X Files alum Spotnitz noted that that he was already working on scripts for a second season and fully expected the show to be renewed. George stars in the series as an operative for an elite private intelligence firm who survives an attempt on her life that may have been orchestrated by members of her own team.
Deadline’s International Editor Nancy Tartaglione contributed to this story.