The cancellation of megabucks TV shows without a trace has become a growing concern in the entertainment industry. One such example is Nautilus, a Disney+ prequel to Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which promised to captivate audiences with the early story of Captain Nemo and his thrilling submarine adventures seeking revenge on the East India Company.
Nautilus was no ordinary production. Disney+ poured enormous resources into it, investing in a colossal replica submarine and dedicating multiple soundstages on Australia’s Gold Coast for filming. The project employed hundreds of crew members and extras, and the Queensland government anticipated that it would inject a staggering A$96 million into the local economy. With its high production value and contemporary themes, Nautilus seemed destined for success.
However, despite the completion of the series, Disney+ shocked everyone by deciding not to stream Nautilus. This move was highly unusual, as canceling shows before release has been known to happen in the industry for various reasons. Examples include the cancellation of the animated show Popetown in 2004 due to complaints from Catholics, the axing of The Cops in 2017 following reports of creator Louis CK’s sexual misconduct, and the cancellation of Ultimate Slip ‘N Slide in 2021 due to a crew-wide outbreak of a highly infectious variant of explosive diarrhoea. Nevertheless, Nautilus was axed solely as a cost-cutting measure.
In May, Disney+ announced a content removal plan aimed at slashing US$1.5 billion worth of content. By reducing the company’s value, Disney+ would be able to pay less in taxes. This strategy is a part of an overall cost-shifting scheme that allegedly aimed at hiding streaming losses, as revealed in a lawsuit filed by investors against Disney. The suit claims that former chief executive Bob Chapek, his lieutenant Kareem Daniel, and former CFO Christine McCarthy concealed the expense and difficulty of maintaining subscriber growth while incurring substantial costs to create content. To make the streaming service appear more successful than it actually was, the executives allegedly aired The Mysterious Benedict Society and Doogie Kameāloha, M.D., which were intended to be Disney+ originals, on the Disney Channel.
The cancellation of Nautilus and the allegations made in the lawsuit against Disney shed light on the challenges faced by streaming services and the lengths companies may go to hide their losses. Investors, believing they were investing in a flourishing streaming platform, are now seeking compensation for their alleged losses caused by Disney’s cost-shifting scheme. The lawsuit reveals the complexities and financial pressures faced by streaming platforms in an increasingly competitive market.
The cancellation of megabucks TV shows like Nautilus raises questions about the future of high-budget productions and the impact of cost-cutting decisions on the industry as a whole. As streaming services continue to battle for subscribers and profitability, it remains to be seen how these developments will shape the future of entertainment. The fate of Nautilus serves as a cautionary tale for both creators and viewers, reminding us that even the most promising projects can disappear without a trace.