Over the years, Netflix has developed a reputation for being ruthless in defining the continuity of its original series. Which has led to what many fans consider to be the early cancellation of productions with very good reviews from the public and the press. Or that, at least, they showed great potential to continue developing. However, the streaming platform has a rather peculiar look on the subject, since it claims to have never canceled a successful series.
This was stated by Ted Sarandos and Greg Peters, the current co-CEO of Netflix. In an interview with Bloombergdue to the recent departure of Reed Hastings as executive director and the promotion of the aforementioned Peters, there was no lack of opportunity to be consulted about complaints about the growing tendency to cancel series when they are on everyone’s lips or, at least, taking off .
The executives did not evade the situation, although they revealed a rather peculiar position. “We have never canceled a successful show. Many of these series were well-intentioned, but they were targeting a very small audience with a very large budget. The key is that you have to be able to speak to a small audience with a small budget and a large audience with a large budget. If you do it right, you can do it forever,” Sarandos said.
In this way, one of the CEOs of Netflix made it clear that the key to a season renewal is not how high the rating percentage is on Rotten Tomatoes, nor how viral the comments about its episodes become on social networks. If not, if they gather enough viewers for the company to recover what it has invested in the budget.
Is it true that Netflix has never canceled a hit show?
Whether fans like it or not, what Sarandos is raising is a valid business decision, whether or not his statement requires revision. And it should also come as no surprise that Netflix is focused on renewing production deals with series that offer the highest return, even if they are not necessarily the most far-reaching. After all, this is how the company hinted at it in April 2022, when it rethought its content strategy. By then, the company had already established that, from now on, it would bet on launching less original content, but of higher quality.
As we already said, Netflix’s approach has its validity in terms of business, although it is possibly more objectionable on the content side. Without going any further, in the first days of 2023 the public was enraged when the cancellation of 1899 was announced, one of the most talked about productions of the end of 2022. This left fans without the possibility of seeing a second season.
During the last year, there were many original series that also went through the guillotine. Among the most notorious were Space Force —from the creators of The Office and with Steve Carrell in the lead— and Resident Evil, although the latter was not particularly celebrated by the public or the specialized press. And the story extends to previous years, as happened with Altered Carbon and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina in 2020. Or with Jupiter’s Legacy in 2021. Although, without a doubt, the most resonant cases were those of Daredevil and Sense8.
The cases of Daredevil and Sense8
As for the Man Without Fear, Netflix canceled his series at the end of 2018, despite being one of the most popular and praised on the platform. This led to a highly publicized campaign for Disney and Marvel to save the character and Charlie Cox as his interpreter. Something that paid off, considering his addition to the MCU in Spider-Man: No Way Home and She-Hulk. And the actor will play the superhero again in Daredevil: Born Again.
As for Sense8, the Wachowski sisters’ sci-fi drama suffered one of the most erratic decisions seen in the industry. The series was canceled in mid-2017, just after the second season, which left its plot unfinished for a later resolution. But the third season never came. The public reaction against Netflix was so negative that the company had no choice but to give the green light to a two and a half hour special that premiered in 2018 so that there were no cliffhangers.
It is clear, then, that “we never cancel a successful show” is a half-truth. The problem is that Netflix doesn’t release full audience statistics for all of its original productions on a regular basis. We can only know the case of its most outstanding titles via Top 10 which is updated weekly, but which mentions the number of hours viewed, and not much else. Therefore, the information does not paint a total picture and the public does not fully understand what are the complete parameters that define when a series is successful or not.