Were you absolutely invested in a show, eagerly waiting for its second season when you found out through an Instagram post that Netflix canceled it? Trust me, we’ve all been there.
Without a doubt, Netflix is one of the biggest online streaming platforms, where one spends more time picking something to watch than actually watching it. But recently, the streaming giant has begun acting as a cable network- canceling shows left, right, and centre. Netflix has always been known as a risk-taker, releasing new content for a niche audience. However lately, Netflix is appearing to take fewer and fewer risks. So the question is, why does Netflix have this trend of canceling shows- even ones with huge fandoms and what can we expect in the future? Let’s break it down.
The Efficiency Matrix
Unlike Youtube, Netflix doesn’t release its viewership count. As a result, we as consumers will never know which shows were actual blockbusters and which weren’t. Netflix however has a system called the efficiency matrix which it uses to evaluate which shows are worth renewing.
According to a letter sent to a UK Parliament committee, Netflix counts views on an original series or movie based on three factors – starters, watchers, and completers. Starters comprise households that watch two minutes of a film or an episode in a series, while completers are households that watch 90% of a film or season of a series. Netflix in fact gives the data of these two categories to producers and directors so that the creative partners gain an understanding of how consumers engage with their content right from start to finish. It is these two metrics that help decide if a show is worth renewing. The third category- watchers- are households that watch 70% of a movie or an episode in a series however, this data is often included in quarterly earnings letters to shareholders.
The Impact of the Pandemic
There’s no proof that Netflix considers fan’s opinions and it seems that once a show has been canceled, the decision is final.
Apart from the viewership, other unforeseen factors force Netflix to make such decisions. The pandemic, for instance, delayed production of The Society which according to Business Insider was originally renewed for a second season. However, thanks to COVID, the filming got delayed by over 6 months, which led to the eventual cancellation of the show after merely one season. However, this shocking cancellation instigated fans to take to social media to protest, with the hashtag #savethesociety. Alas, no response from Netflix. Even in the cases of I Am Not Okay With This and Anne With An E, which were both canceled due to the pandemic, and fans created hashtags to protest. There’s no proof that Netflix considers fan’s opinions and it seems that once a show has been canceled, the decision is final.
Economies of Scope
The theory of economies of scope states the average total cost of a company’s production decreases when there is an increasing variety of goods produced. The economies of scope give a cost advantage to a company when it produces a complementary range of products while focusing on its core identity. This can be seen in the case of Stranger Things, one of the most popular Netflix originals. Today, Stranger Things has its own merchandise- ranging from clothes and toys to video games. This is what Netflix capitalizes on. On the other hand, although shows such as GLOW are extremely popular, Netflix doesn’t benefit from the show in any other way apart from the show itself, therefore giving them another reason to cancel it.
Is Netflix Homophobic?
However, although Netflix justifies canceling shows by stating reasons such as low economies of scope, COVID-19, etc, watchers have noticed a trend. In 2020, three of the shows canceled- The Society, I Am Not Okay With This, and Atypical- all had prominent lesbian leads. Additionally, 8 shows with LGBTQ+ leads have been canceled while series such as Riverdale, with pathetic critical reviews, are renewed season after season. This makes no sense as Netflix only cancels these shows to create originals with a similar protagonist panel, to cancel them after a season. Nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped watchers from speculating that Netflix’s homophobia is the reason behind this.
What does this mean for viewers?
While it’s indeed heartbreaking to have your beloved tv show canceled when you’re at the edge of your seat, waiting for the cliffhanger to be explained, Netflix has a ton of new content coming out to hook on users this year. Although we have no clue whether Netflix will continue its hated trend of discontinuing the show for these, we can only hope. In conclusion, it is indeed interesting to see an online streaming platform behave like a cable network and we’ll just have to wait and watch to see whether Netflix’s strategy is actually effective or whether users will take to Netflix’s competitors such as Hulu, AmazonPrime and Disney+.
Cover: sitthiphong via Shutterstock
Edited by: Rajal Monga