Another comic-book-based CW television series has been axed. Following the cancellations of shows like Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow, the network has decided to end Riverdale, the live-action adaptation of Archie Comics' beloved gang of teenagers. The show (which is currently in its sixth season) will finish with Season 7, expected to be released sometime in 2023.
Regarding the end of the series, The CW CEO Mark Pedowitz stated at this year's CW's primetime scheduling and strategy press conference (via Variety): "We had a long conversation with [Riverdale Executive Producer and Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa], who's thrilled by this news. And we're going to treat the show in the manner it deserves. It was an iconic pop culture star, and we want to make sure it goes out the right way and that is the decision. I think they choose that seven years is the right amount, and we want to do the right thing. That's a personal thing. As a fan myself. I do want to do what's right for the show."
Pedowitz further stated that he expected the final season not to have its episode count shortened.
During the same event, Archie Andrews actor KJ Apa expressed sadness and excitement about the show coming to a close (via Deadline):
"I'm sad to be saying goodbye to Riverdale next season, to our sets, to our crew, to our producers, to our CW family but I can speak for everyone, for Cammy [Mendes], Cole [Sprouse], Lili [Reinhart] and the rest of our cast that we are so grateful for everyone’s support. [...] To the fans, without the fans, none of this would be be possible. [...] I can't say I'd miss dying my hair every week, I'm looking forward to being myself again, but I promise you guys, this last season, we are going to end it with a bang, and we can’t wait to share it with you."
While Pedowitz stated that seven seasons felt like a good run for the show, there could be more reasons behind the network's decision, such as The CW's impending sale and the show's declining viewership. According to TVLine, the series averaged 560,000 viewers per episode (including Live+7 DVR numbers). This puts Riverdale at #16 out of the 19 shows that were broadcast on The CW between the 2021 fall and winter seasons.
To further put that figure into perspective, below is a list of the least-viewed episode from each season of Riverdale (note that the numbers presumably do not account for DVR viewers):
Focusing on the raw numbers (i.e., without DVR audiences), there has been a steady decline in Riverdale's lowest-viewed episodes as its seasons have progressed. Keep in mind, though, that the show's diminished audience may not be responsible for it ending next year, and it could simply be that, as Pedowitz stated, the creatives behind the series felt it was time to close out the story.
As pointed out by The Hollywood Reporter, Riverdale marked one of the last three CW shows under the network's $1 billion deal with the streamer. For those unaware, in 2011, The CW struck a licensing agreement with Netflix to have its series released on the platform following their original broadcast. The deal was renewed in 2016, and proved to be beneficial for the network. Per THR, it allowed for The CW to be profitable, and gave series like The Flash and Riverdale a larger worldwide reach.
However, Deadline reported in 2019 that the deal had come to a close due to The CW's owners — Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount — opting to put their content on their own streaming services (HBO Max and Paramount+, respectively).
Riverdale stars KJ Apa as Archie Andrews, Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper, Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge, Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones and Madelaine Petsch as Cherry Blossom.