I've been trying to find out the reason for it being cancelled, but I can't find an "official" line. So far I've seen the following reasons in a variety of different places:

  • Not enough viewers.
  • Too expensive to produce.
  • Poor critical reception.
  • Bad advertising decisions leading to marketing problems.
  • Erratic airing due to schedule conflicts.
  • Friction between Joss Whedon and FOX.

Even Wikipedia dances around the reason without saying anything definitive.

So, there have been many theories and unreferenced statements about why Firefly was cancelled, but is there an official "from the horse's mouth" word?

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    Like any other show cancellations - because it wasn't making enough money compared to programming competing for the same time slot. Everything else is likely true, to an extent, but all of them are merely factors contributing to this main reason. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 30 '12 at 2:12
  • Keep in mind FOX only aired the pilot episode much later. – shachna Dec 30 '12 at 2:42
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    All those reasons are interrelated (erratic airing & wrong episode order leads to not enough viewers (because the plot is hard to follow), which in turn leads to it being too expensive.. and so on). The earliest instance of any one of those I know of is Fox's insistence that Serenity (the pilot) was a bad pilot, and The Train Job being aired as the pilot. Which took away our introduction to the characters, so there weren't as many viewers, which... – Izkata Dec 30 '12 at 3:14
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    Actually it was asked there already: What led to Firefly's cancellation? on movies.SE – CodesInChaos Dec 30 '12 at 18:24
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    I don't actually see why this would be considered off-topic by current standards in 2015. It was closed in 2012. – ThePopMachine Oct 13 '15 at 21:21

Fox has never come out and "officially explained" why it got cancelled. But, in general, networks don't do that because they don't need to.

With extremely rare exceptions, shows get cancelled for exactly one reason: bad ratings. That means either:

  • The show's ratings don't justify high enough ad revenue to cover costs of production, or
  • The show's ratings are worse than most of the other shows on the same network.

In this case, probably because she got asked about it all the time, Gail Berman has briefly discussed the issue. It wasn't an official statement, but as Fox Entertainment President at the time, it would have been her call. She says:

"Canceling 'Firefly' was as difficult as anything I'd ever been involved in because Joss and I had been creative partners at one time [...] I worked with him very closely on this particular show and when it didn't perform [in the ratings], having to cancel it was very difficult." src

As far as why it got bad ratings, as you mention, fans have plenty of theories, mostly ones that make Fox sound bad. There's likely some truth to some of those, but it's also important to note that, at least back when Firefly was airing, "genre" shows did not do well compared to "safer" ones. That's a trend that has started to change recently, but Firefly is in some good company.

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