Canceling shows that aren’t doing well is a normal part of being a TV network — then again, Netflix was never considered a normal TV network.
Netflix has started canceling shows faster than ever before.
Netflix made its name in originals with prestige shows like House of Cards, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Orange Is the New Black, each of which got five or six seasons before its run finished. But lately, that’s changed, with beloved newcomers like The OA and Tuca & Bertie getting pushed out the door as soon as they fail to perform. The move wouldn’t be surprising coming from a network like ABC or CBS, but Netflix has positioned itself as different than traditional TV — and that includes taking risks on weirder, more niche shows. Suddenly, it’s a risk the company seems less willing to take.
When Netflix was the only major player in the game, playing the long game made more sense. Netflix could rely on licensed series like Friends and The Office to keep subscribers happy while building buzz with original titles. But that’s changing — fast. Competitors like Disney, AT&T’s WarnerMedia, Comcast’s NBCUniversal, and Apple are quickly arriving on the streaming front. Other competitors like Hulu and Amazon are continuing to invest in their own platforms. Netflix is losing key licensing deals for shows that once kept people around. As a result, it needs to invest in originals like Stranger Things that people want to watch.
But the more original shows Netflix orders, the more likely it is to cancel those that don’t perform well. The company relies on an “efficiency metric” to decide what shows should be kept and which should go. If a series is able to retain subscribers with a risk of leaving or bring in new subscribers (like Stranger Things), it gets renewed. If it can’t, it’s probably going to be canceled. This explains why Tuca & Bertie and The OA got chopped.
Still, it’s not like Netflix isn’t investing in original content. Netflix’s content budget is around $15 billion this year, and the company is aggressively pursuing development in international regions. Major showrunners, directors, and producers like David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, Ryan Murphy, and Shonda Rhimes have signed massive contracts with Netflix to produce exclusive series. Netflix is all in on original series — even more so if they’re niche interests. But if those shows don’t bring in viewers, it’s going to start acting like a traditional cable network and cancel more, too.
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