The standard reason for a TV show to get cancelled is when the ratings drop. Was that the case for "The Next Generation" too? What exactly is meant by "low ratings": is it absolute numbers, or relative to other shows, or relative to the production costs?

Ratings are not the only conceivable reason for cancellation. Sometimes a show just loses steam, or the people behind the scenes lose interest. (For instance, "Seinfeld" ended because Jerry Seinfeld wanted it to end, despite it being enormously successful at that point.)

If ratings were the reason, does anybody have any insight as to what the the actual viewer numbers were? And how strong they would have had to be in order for the show to continue? Wikipedia has a section on the cancellation, but it's quite vague, I'd like to know some actual numbers.

(I personally think TNG never jumped the shark, I thought the longer it ran the stronger the show got, but who's asking me :-))

  • 9
    I would call it quitting while you're ahead.
    – Praxis
    Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 1:12
  • Who knows what adventures they had between season one and when the show became unprofitable? Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 8:29
  • I don't know if I'm in the minority here, but I thought season 7 had a significant drop in quality.
    – Jim Conant
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 19:25
  • @JimConant Production values seemed to remain consistent, but the writing (story concept) wasn't necessarily as good. Nevertheless, it's not about quality but profitability, for which the top line is ad revenue. The show was still holding an audience which is what matters to advertisers. Probably a good choice to go out on a high note and not dilute the fan base from the other Trek properties.
    – Anthony X
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 18:06
  • TNG, where did you boldly go? youtube.com/watch?v=F3HL8XVMih8
    – Darren
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 10:31

4 Answers 4


From Star Trek: The Next Generation - Cancellation:

Although the cast members were contracted for eight seasons, Paramount ended The Next Generation after seven, an unusual decision for a successful television show. Although doing so let the studio begin making films using the cast, the main reason was that additional seasons would likely have reduced the show's profitability, due to higher cast salaries and a lower price per episode when sold for stripping. The cancellation also encouraged viewers to watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the forthcoming Star Trek: Voyager, both of which were much cheaper to make than The Next Generation. The show's strong ratings continued to the end; the series finale was ranked #2 among all shows that week, between fellow hits Home Improvement and Seinfeld.

This explanation seems pretty logical to me. Cancel this high cost show so fans will want movies and newer shows, which in turn will have a higher profit margin as well as drive the franchise forward.

  • 5
    @OghmaOsisris: Yes, I saw that section (even linked to it in my question), but it cites not sources, nor does it give any quantifications. What were the costs? What was the profit margin? That stuff is usually not publicly available, but that's what I was hoping to find out about.
    – Thomas
    Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 15:27
  • 5
    This is correct, I remember when it went off the air, the entire cast of TNG was not very pleased about it. Basically they were so successful that Paramount knew they could make more money with movies. The only problem is that they drove the franchise into the ground with lackluster writing and directing on most of the Next-Gen movies. Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 15:44
  • 8
    The only bad tng movie was Nemisis. I really liked all the other ones. Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 15:52
  • 5
    That's a decent point, First Contact was a really solid movie. I just felt that Generations was a little weak on the Picard meets Kirk part. Insurrection isn't bad, but I think they could have really chosen a more interesting story to make a movie out of. Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 16:22
  • 8
    There were decent moments though. "Data... I made that joke seven years ago" -- Geordi "I know.... I just got it!" -- Data
    – Neil
    Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 15:38

I was a big fan of Next Gen from the beginning and read everything I found in print about the show during its run. The rumor during season 5 was that Patrick Stewart had asked to end the show after season 6 so that he could do other projects. I seem to remember that Sterwart's contract was for only 6 years (his request), and the producers briefly considered doing a last season without him. Some time later (before season 6 began filming) Stewart agree to continue for a 7th and final season.

This isn't to say that Stewart had final say on how many seasons the show would continue. The producers didn't want to continue filming a series with an unhappy lead actor, and they felt Next Generation would suffer without Picard.

All the other things were in play too, increasing salary costs (maybe they had to bump Stewart's to get him to stay on), moving the audience focus to DS9 and freeing up resources to create Voyager. Yes, the cast of Next Gen wasn't happy about losing their jobs, except for Stewart.

A minor point. The show ended. It wasn't really cancelled. When a tv show is cancelled, usually the decision is made by a small number execs after the season has finished filming. The cast and crew get a call that they don't jobs anymore. Occasionally a series is cancelled (or might be) mid-season and the writers are given a couple months to decide how to end it, or at least write a story that can function either as an end of season show and a series finale. In Next Gen's case, the end was negotiated among key players over a long period of time. The producers and writers had the chance to map out how they would finish off the final year. Of course, many of the cast and crew weren't given a vote in the matter, but they had advanced warning and a chance to say their goodbyes.

  • 4
    I wonder, if it was specific to Stewart and helping the fledgling DS9, why did it become a sort of tradition that Trek series should last 7 seasons (unless canceled for low ratings like Enterprise)?
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 16:18

Adding addendum to the excellent answers already presented.

Paramount’s answer: ”It’s always tough to cancel a series that’s doing as well as Next Generation,” says Joel Berman (no relation to Rick), the studio’s executive vice president of domestic television. ”But the bottom line is that a successful feature-film franchise can be more profitable than a TV series. We thought it was time to launch Next Generation as a movie franchise, and we didn’t think we could do the television series at the same time. Why would people go to movie theaters to see Next Generation if new episodes were available on TV every week? The movie wouldn’t be as special.”¹


As usual it came down to profitability.

  • Great answer. You have my +1
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 0:12

The problem, also, was that after 7 seasons, there were too many episodes in syndication. All of the local stations showing TNG reruns stopped buying new ones, because they had plenty.

This is the reason given in that BIG, coffee table-sized TNG book The Continuing Mission, which is a brilliant book btw.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.