Kanye West’s mental health crisis, E!’s finances, and a big Kardashian cash grab were all factors in the demise of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” sources say.
Insiders exclusively told Page Six that the Kardashian family has been talking about “what the end of their show looks like” for “three or four years” before dropping the bombshell this week that the series will end after 20 seasons. “It’s been a long time, coming,” they said.
But we’re told that matters came to a head because of a number of factors, including a West’s ongoing mental health struggles.
Insiders said that Kim Kardashian already had reservations about exposing West’s bipolar battle to the viewing public. And she’s recently begged the “media and public to have compassion and empathy” during his latest bouts — so teeing up storylines around the illness would’ve rung as hypocritical. And leaving West out of the show — as they could have done as the show’s executive producers — would have left fans feeling cheated.
Meanwhile, E!’s parent company, NBCUniversal, has been hard hit financially by COVID, and E! just lost its other flagship show “E! News” in the economic fallout. (It’s been replaced by “Daily Pop” and “Nightly Pop,” and the “E! News” brand remains online.)
Sources said that when the Kardashians had floated their exit in the past, E! was able to dangle ever-larger checks to bring them back — but this time, the pockets aren’t so deep.
As Page Six first reported, in 2017 the family renewed its contract with E! through 2020 for $100 million, and we’re told that they wanted more to re-up, in spite of the battered economy.
At the same time, the show — which scored a high of 5.8 million viewers for a season premiere in 2010 — brought in just 1.6 million viewers for its most recent episode — perhaps reducing the network’s motivation to spend more hard-to-come-by cash.
Another factor: Sources said that for the last four years or so, the show has been more important to the family as a platform to advertise their many, many, products and draw new potential customers than as a source of income in its own right. Plus, the family’s social media followings now reach many times more eyeballs than the show — so they’re less tied to the E! series as a marketing machine.
Reps for E! declined to comment and a rep for the Kardashians didn’t get back to us.