Bad news for the few remaining fans of “Heroes”: The series, once upon a time a contender for mega-franchise status, has finally been cancelled.

News ends speculation that NBC was looking to bring the show back on a limited basis to wrap things up. That was still considered a real possibility until recently. But having picked up 11 new shows for fall, NBC likely didn’t see the need, the room or the money necessary to make such an arrangement.

Peacock execs are already moving on to a new superhero, anyway: “The Cape,” which has been ordered for 2010-2011.

A case study should probably be drawn up on what happened to “Heroes.” Rarely has such a strong opener fall from grace so quickly.

“Heroes” opened huge in 2006, and became such a quick player for the network that it quickly spawned a spinoff (which was ultimately scrapped), online components, books and merchandising. The rally cry “Save the cheerleader, save the world” became a marketing powerhouse.

The show’s creative, however, eventually fell off — a factor that some pegged on creator/exec producer Tim Kring’s busy schedule. NBC touted a rejuvenated series several times, and attempted to sell the show as a series of “books” with a beginning, middle and end. But viewers didn’t return.

And at some point, it didn’t make sense to bring such an expensive show back — even though Universal Media Studios is the producer. Season to date, “Heroes” has averaged a 3.0 rating and 7 share — down 32% from last year’s 4.4. Among viewers, its 6.5 million is down 29% from last year’s 9.2 million.

“Heroes” starred Jack Coleman, Noah Gray-Cabey, Greg Grunberg, Ali Larter, James Kyson Lee, Masi Oka, Hayden Panettiere, Adrian Pasdar, Zachary Quinto, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Dania Ramirez and Milo Ventimiglia. Kring was EP, along with Dennis Hammer, Allan Arkush and Greg Beeman.

Reaction to the cancellation has so far been of the “coulda been a contender” variety. Critics and fans said the show just didn’t live up to its season one promise.

“‘Heroes,” canceled by NBC, and rightly so, was one of my biggest disappointments as a TV critic. And viewer,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Gail Pennington wrote. “I loved it so much!”

“Heroes” even won the Television Critics Assn.’s 2007 award for program of the year, while the TV Land Awards gave the show its “future classic” award.

The cancellation of “Heroes” follows NBC’s decision to end “Law & Order” after 20 seasons. “Mercy” and “Trauma” were officially axed on Friday, as NBC paves the way for its new series.