Did Rampant Piracy Cannibalize ‘Hannibal’ Into Extinction?

Are you still in mourning over the untimely death of the NBC cult darling Hannibal? Well, if you pirated Bryan Fuller’s gorgeously grotesque show rather than watch it on broadcast TV, a finger of blame has kinda-sorta been pointed your way.

Hannibal executive producer Martha De Laurentiis has written an intriguing op-ed for The Hill that suggests that illegal downloading played no small factor in cannibalizing the show. (Get it? Cuz Hannibal Lecter eats people and all that. Mail the Pulitzer to the usual address.) De Laurentiis says that the program’s status as a highly pirated show meant that the show’s audience on NBC was significantly reduced from what it could be.

When NBC decided not to renew “Hannibal” for a fourth season — a show on which I served as executive producer — it wasn’t much of a leap to connect its fate with the fact that the show was ranked as the fifth-most illegally downloaded show in 2013. When nearly one-third of the audience for “Hannibal” is coming from pirated sites — despite the fact that a legitimate download for each episode was available the following day — you don’t have to know calculus to do the math. If a show is stolen, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to fairly compensate a crew and keep a series in production.

De Laurentiis suggests that fans nabbing the show through less-than-legal means not only ruined it for those that did, but also are partially to blame for killing the jobs of “hundreds of crew members.” It’s a subject that De Laurentiis also lined up to discuss at this week’s Meet the Producers event at Capitol Hill.

It’s both a reasonable criticism and something fans might bristle at. Illegal downloads can be measured, but not every household that features a loyal Hannibal viewing audience can be 100% taken into account with the current ratings metrics. (After all, how many Nielsen households do you rub elbows with?) Piracy likely didn’t help the show morph into a stronger ratings provider, but Hannibal was also a unique prestige show that wasn’t likely to do NCIS numbers in the first place and programs with higher ratings have been slain much earlier, so there’s definitely wriggle room for debate on why fans can’t be “Mad About Mads” (Flop House®) weekly on the Peacock Network anymore.

Were you a loyal Hannibal viewer legal or otherwise? Do you think piracy sunk the series? Weigh in with your take in the comments. Or just leer at pictures of Mads Mikkelsen. It’s the weekend. You’ve earned it.

(via AV Club)