Will Designated Survivor have a 4th season?

Designated Survivor will not have a fourth season, as the political thriller-drama series was not renewed for a new season by Netflix, after it was initially cancelled by ABC.  


The story of the three-season political thriller-drama series, Designated Survivor, is one that not many television shows can tell. The show which premiered on ABC in 2016 and had two seasons on the network before it was cancelled, received a second chance on Netflix.

After being picked by Netflix in 2019, Designated Survivor went on to have one more season, season three. After the third season aired, it was confirmed that there would not be a fourth season, as Netflix did not wish to continue, due to internal shortfalls on the show.

What was Designated Survivor about?

The political thriller-drama series was centred on a low-level politician, Tom Kirkman, who became the president of the United States, following a terrorist attack that killed all the high-level cabinet members.

For three seasons, we watched as Kirkman attempted to juggle his new role as the first citizen of the country, while also trying to find the people behind the terrorist attack.

The lead role was played by prolific actor, Kiefer Sutherland, and additional cast members included Adan Canto, Italia Ricci, Kal Penn and Maggie Q, who left ahead of the cancellation of the show.

Will Designated Survivor have a fourth season?

Netflix and the producers of Designated Survivor have confirmed that the paid-subscription video-on-demand platform did not pick the show up for a fourth season. Netflix picking the show up for a third season was already a streak of luck. This is as the show was initially cancelled by ABC, following its second season on the network.

Details on why Netflix did not pick up the show for a fourth season were not shared by the video-on-demand platform. However, lead actor, Kiefer Sutherland did allude to the reason when he stated:

“I don’t think (season 4) is going to happen. We had an amazing experience with Netflix and a kind of freedom that was wonderful. But the reality is, because the contracts were so complicated and different from network television to Netflix, they didn’t book a lot of the actors who were on the show and they took other jobs. I don’t blame them for a second for that.”

Why did Designated Survivor move to Netflix?

For the first two seasons, Designated Survivor was on ABC. Thereafter, it was picked up by Netflix. The deal with Netflix allowed the show freedom, which it did not have while it was contracted under ABC. The biggest of which being the change in shooting locations. While the show was still under ABC, it was shot in Toronto.

However, Sutherland had called for the show to move its shooting location to Los Angeles, where he would be closer to his family. A privilege which Netflix’s big budget provided.

Why did ABC cancel Designated Survivor?

Whenever you start to consider why a show is cancelled, the first matter of protocol is to look at the ratings. Seemingly, with Designated Survivor, the ratings could have been the reason the show was cancelled by ABC. The first season of the political thriller-drama series had brought in the numbers with an estimated 12.1 million viewers.

Season two fell a bit behind, as it drew at most 8.6 million viewers. Moreover, behind the scenes the show was also plagued with internal dramas, which did not make keeping the series on ABC appealing.

ABC’s last straw with Designated Survivor

The internal issues that plagued Designated Survivor were numerous. The first was the continual change of showrunners on the show. Designated Survivor had a total of four different showrunners in two seasons, meaning the direction of the show changed just as many times.

Moreover, the third season also had a new showrunner, and as previously highlighted, Sutherland wanted production to move to Los Angeles. Which for a television network, only means increased expense to maintain a show that was already showing a decline in ratings.


Designated Survivor lasted for three seasons in total between 2016 and 2018. The first two seasons aired on ABC and following a decline in ratings and internal issues plaguing the production, Netflix picked up the political thriller-drama series for what would be the third and final season.

As a result, for fans of the series that were looking forward to the possibility of a fourth season, Netflix has confirmed that it will not have one. Moreover, Sutherland has since attributed the decision to the actors in the series being contractually obligated to other productions. Obligations that were made before Netflix picked up the project.