Netflix has come under fire recently from viewers noticing a problematic trend with the streaming service. While its strongest originals like Stranger Things and You continue to flourish with renewed seasons, other shows are being cancelled after only one season. Recently, Inside Job fell victim to this strike despite Netflix originally ordering a second season. Others like 1899, Resident Evil, I Am Not Okay With This, and The Society suffered similar fates. Netflix might have to deal with some big repercussions should this trend continue, though.
The first point to address is how this negatively impacts creative growth. In many cases, great shows are expanded upon and made progressively better with multiple seasons. Critically acclaimed shows like Breaking Bad or The Wire were given several seasons to grow and tell a complete story, perhaps just as the creators envisioned. In a lot of cases, the first season is the creators pitching the show’s ideas or framework and then taking feedback into account before elaborating on those ideas in subsequent seasons.
Having the assurance of another season is beneficial for creators to revisit concepts that maybe didn’t work before and improve them. Unfortunately, assurance is something Netflix doesn’t seem to give its new shows. While it’s true that broadcasters and services have to consider viewer count and critic/user response before deciding if a show is worth investing another season in, not only is Netflix far more stringent in this regard, it’s own “binge” business model tends to actively work against it.
Netflix was among the first to offer experiences where viewers could essentially binge an entire season of a show at once instead of waiting for episodes weekly. There are some debates for and against this – and both are justified – but when we look at it from the perspective of shows basically living or dying by this format, the problems become clearer. Episodes airing weekly allow companies to monitor a show’s reception on a week-by-week basis and build a following. They can analyse the exact issues with specific episodes and adjust future content accordingly so that they can keep fostering a following.
With Netflix, there is no week-by-week analysis of episodes. Instead, feedback from Netflix viewers encompasses an entire season’s worth of content. On a positive note, this allows creators to re-calibrate and tighten up the pacing of a season that results in what feels like a long movie. The only problem is, many Netflix shows only have one chance to be great with absolutely no room to grow and improve should they be scrapped after one season.
There’s also the matter of what Netflix seems to cherish: viewership. If a first season is able to accumulate a sizeable viewership that completes the show and rakes in the subscriber numbers that the streaming service seeks (or kind of needs, really), then it’s almost guaranteed we’ll see another season. Almost. Creativity often gets sidelined in this process. That’s not to say shows that bring in big numbers aren’t creative. Squid Game is a phenomenal show brimming with inventive ideas and it more than earned its second season on top of bringing Netflix millions of viewers, but I don’t think Netflix even expected that.
Netflix is a business that constantly needs to be maintained and that’s exactly how it operates. It needs shows to be a success right out the gate, therefore ensuring views, therefore ensuring profits from a growing subscriber base. If a show’s first season doesn’t bring in those views, it doesn’t bring in or keep up subscribers, therefore investing in a second season wouldn’t make any sense business-wise. Netflix simply isn’t allowing shows to build and sustain followings.
Trying to draw in more viewers by constantly cancelling and approving new shows in this bizarre trial-and-error process could be counter-productive in the long run. We’re even seeing it happen right now. People are watching shows in constant fear that they won’t last another season. Therefore, most people are hesitant to even begin watching new shows, which means less viewers, which means… you get the idea. I’m sure Netflix can draw a conclusion on that snowball effect.
Of course, Netflix isn’t the sole perpetrator. Shows have been cancelled after one season for as long as television and broadcasting have existed. The problem isn’t exclusive to Netflix, but it’s now almost become synonymous with the streaming service due to the alarming frequency in which it happens there.
Many frustrated viewers seem to agree that Netflix should be giving shows a fair chance to learn, adapt and grow in newer seasons. Therein lies another problem from a business standpoint. Producing seasons needs a budget and the budget is accumulated from profits. If there’s no initial viewers, there are no profits and suddenly, budgeting for a second season isn’t possible, especially with shows becoming more expensive to produce.
Other factors such as the “completion rate” of shows – a percentage of how many viewers actually finished a season – and expensive budgets have all contributed to Netflix’s decisions to cancel shows. There isn’t one singular thing that dictates what Netflix cancels. Rather, it seems to be a collection of all these little factors that are now starting to pile on and might turn against the streaming service soon.
The way I see it, Netflix has gotten itself into a tricky predicament and created a cycle that has hindered its own growth. People are already voicing their concerns over this and are now approaching the service with caution rather than the optimism of seeing a show conclude the way it wants to. We’re only left with cliffhangers to forever latch onto as we browse a graveyard of incompleteness.