Yellowstone is set to come to an end after the upcoming second half of Season 5 airs on Paramount, but it wasn't always supposed to be that way. In fact, one of the biggest miscalculations in modern television history may have helped bring the beloved show to an end at least two seasons earlier than planned.

Yellowstone Could Have Looked Very Different

Actor, writer and producer Taylor Sheridan first came up with the idea for Yellowstone in 2013, according to TV Guide, and the show was initially slated to be a film or a miniseries. It ended up in development at HBO as a movie, but while Sheridan initially envisioned Kevin Costner as Dutton patriarch John Dutton, the network wanted someone else.

“They said, ‘We want Robert Redford,'" he tells the Hollywood Reporter. “They said, ‘If you can get us Robert Redford, we’ll greenlight the pilot.'

“I drive to Sundance and spend the day with him and he agrees to play John Dutton,” Sheridan relates. “I call the senior vice president in charge of production and say, ‘I got him!’ ‘You got who?’ ‘Robert Redford.’ ‘What?!‘ ‘You said if I got Robert Redford, you’d greenlight the show.’"

“And he says — and you can’t make this s--t up — ‘We meant a Robert Redford type.’"

That deal came apart, and Sheridan also shopped the show to some downscale networks including TBS and TNT before finally landing Yellowstone a deal as the flagship show for the newly-rebranded Paramount Network in 2018.

Yellowstone Had a Slow Start

Yellowstone was a ratings success during its first three seasons, but the show did not become a cultural juggernaut until 2020, when Paramount had the foresight to air several Yellowstone marathons during the pandemic and they were able to introduce the show to a captive audience.

Yellowstone became the most-watched drama on cable television during its fourth season in 2021, but the powers that be at Paramount's parent company had already made a key miscalculation.

The Financial Fumble That Helped End Yellowstone

Paramount Network did not initially have a streaming-only service, so the network made a deal with Peacock for the streaming rights to Yellowstone in 2020 — before the show really took off and became the network's cash cow, with the streaming rights ultimately worth tens of millions. Paramount decided to launch a new streaming service called Paramount+ in 2021, and they asked Sheridan if they could hang the new service around his proposed Yellowstone prequel, 1883.

That show was a smash, as was a second prequel, 1923. Sheridan is currently working on several additional Yellowstone spinoffs, including the upcoming Lawmen: Bass Reeves, 6666 and 1944, and he's also scored huge successes for Paramount+ with Mayor of Kingstown, Special Opps: Lioness and Tulsa King, all of which have helped build Paramount+ into a major streaming player.

Kevin Costner's Unexpected Departure From Yellowstone

Things seemed to going great as Yellowstone Season 5 launched, but the story took a turn after Paramount decided to break the season in half and extend the season. Costner had already made a commitment to his own project called Horizon, and he and producers went back and forth in public for months before talks fell apart. John Dutton will reportedly die early in the second half of Season 5, and Paramount has announced Yellowstone will come to an end after the new episodes, with Matthew McConaughey reportedly in talks to headline a Yellowstone sequel that would start airing right after the flagship show comes to an end.

That's where the miscalculation in 2020 might have actually helped bring the show to an early end. After all, Cole Hauser — who plays Rip Wheeler on Yellowstone — said as recently as January 2023 that he anticipated Yellowstone to have a Season 6 and  Season 7, and Costner testified in his recent divorce that he had tried to negotiate for subsequent seasons before talks stalled.

With Costner exiting the show early, Paramount bringing Yellowstone to an end allows the network to shift its focus to an entirely new show that may employ some of the same settings and characters, and it's almost certain to be a ratings smash — but it would still technically be a new show that would not fall under the streaming deal with Peacock, allowing Paramount Global to drive even more profit to Paramount+ during a critical time for the growing streaming service.

What's Next for Yellowstone?

Paramount announced in May that Yellowstone would return for the second half of Season 5 in November, but the Hollywood writers strike and the actors strike have pushed those timelines back. An air date for Yellowstone and its proposed sequel is currently unknown. CBS has been filling some of the demand for Yellowstone by airing the show's Season 1 on network television for the first time, helping build anticipation for whatever comes next even more.

As part of Taste of Country's comprehensive coverage of all things Yellowstone, check out our Dutton Rules podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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PICTURES: See Inside Kevin Costner's Spectacular Colorado Ranch

Yellowstone star Kevin Costner lives the ranch life when he's off the set of the hit show, too. The Oscar-winning actor owns a 160-acre ranch in Aspen, Colo., that's a spectacular getaway, complete with a main residence, a lake house and a river house.

The luxury retreat also features a baseball field, a sledding hill, an ice rink, multiple hot tubs and views of the Continental Divide. The ranch property comfortably sleeps 27 people, and it's currently available to rent for 36,000 a night.

Gallery Credit: Sterling Whitaker

22 'Yellowstone' Facts You Probably Didn't Know

How big of a fan of Yellowstone are you? These 22 facts about the Paramount Network show are sure to stump even the most dedicated viewers. They're almost all about the cast members and their real-life passions and roles. John's kids? Beth's accent? Rainwater's guitar playing? Tate's spoilers? It's all part of this list of 22 Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Yellowstone.

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