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Netflix's 3 Body Problem has three other problems as season renewal announcement goes wrong

Netflix very non-commital renewal of 3 Body Problem left a lot of questions - and we went looking for answers

3 Body Problem
Image credit: Netflix

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Netflix's 3 Body Problem was a popular show when it debuted earlier this year - it spend 7 weeks in Netflix's top 10 TV shows ranking, and is based on an epic trilogy of prose novels begging for new seasons to tell the entire story. While an announcement that the show was continuing (and not being canceled) wasn't immediate with the first season's debut, it did come weeks later at Netflix's early May upfronts with Netflix’s chief content officer Bela Bajaria saying there would be “additional episodes” to “finish the story.”

But that framing - not talking about a new season (or seasons, plural) seemed to land with some fans as a bit 'less than,' and in the days since Netflix and showrunners David Benioff, Dan Weiss, and Alexander Woo have launched an impromptu press tour to salvage the poorly-received renewal news.

"We knew going into this how many hours we need to tell the rest of the story because we’ve got a roadmap through to the end," Weiss told The Hollywood Reporter this week. "And we have what we need to get to the end as intended from when we started."

"By the time we finish with the show, it will be seven years we’ve devoted to it,” Benioff added. “We’re now at a place where we get to tell the rest of the story, and, yes, we have enough time to tell the rest of the story the way we want to and that’s immensely gratifying."

Taking that at face value, Netflix's 3 Body Problem know how "many hours" (as in episodes) they need to tell the entire 3-novel 3 Body Problem story in television, and that they estimate it'll take a total of seven years (they began in 2021, so through 2027) to tell the entire story.

In that however, it's interesting how those showrunners and Netflix are avoiding to say if those additional episodes will be multiple seasons, one long season, or something else - that's without mentioning Netflix's strategy of breaking some TV seasons in half.

Why the hesistance, especially considering for other shows Netflix has announced multiple seasons in advance?

Netflix's 3 Body Problem viewership

3 Body Problem
Image credit: Netflix

One thing that that could be part of this is the viewership numbers. 3 Body Problem's first week on Netflix garnered 15 million views according to Netflix. While impressive on its own, it is much lower than the first week's of Netflix's other 2024 hit new seasons: Fool Me Once (37m), Amerrican Nightmare (21m), Griselda (20m), Avatar: The Last AIrbender (21m), The Gentleman (12m), and Bridgerton season 3 (45m).

Netflix's 3 Body Problem budget

3 Body Problem
Image credit: Netflix

The second is cost. 3 Body Problem reportedly cost $160 million to film its eight episode first season, which would be nearly four times what the first season of Netflix's Stranger Things cost, and almost double what Game of Thrones' final season, which was produced by the two of the three showrunners of 3 Body Problem.

With new seasons of a show comes higher per-episode production costs - due to inflation, rising salaries of talent, and also presumably the higher need for special effects as you head towards a grand finale.

Netflix's 3 Body Problem issues in China

3 Body Problem
Image credit: Netflix

Netflix's 3 Body Problem is adapting a prose novel trilogy called Remembrance of Earth's Past, which is one of the most popular Chinese sci-fi stories in modern times. In addition to the Netflix show, it was adapted into an animated series and a Chinese-language live action series Peacock recently brought to America. Despite all of that, people in China can't legally watch Netflix's 3 Body Problem, because Netflix is outlawed by the country's government. While it has been bootlegged in various ways to be seen there, it does stymie what could be its largest audience from legally watching the show.

There is also a second issue - the rights-holder of 3 Body Problem was fatally poisoned in 2020, with his lawyer convicted of being the culprit just one day before Netflix's adaptation first aired - in what was reportedly an atempt to take control of the franchise.

What's next for Netflix's 3 Body Problem?

So what does this mean for Netflix's 3 Body Problem? Well, we're back where we started; there's definitely more 3 Body Problem coming from Netflix, but we're unsure what shape (or body) it will take.

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