Starting a new show on Netflix can be a bit of a gamble. Despite strong debuts and remaining on Netflix’s own Top 10 list for weeks if not months, many new shows are often unceremoniously cancelled after just one season. The latest high–profile casualty is 1899, a show that seemed destined for success, coming from the creators of Dark, which reached a big international audience on the platform. 1899 reached the number 2 slot in Netflix’s Top 10 within its first week, behind only The Crown. With around 79.3 million hours of viewership. Most people would consider this a success, so why don’t Netflix? And is any show safe?
Just Getting Started
In 2022, Netflix spent around $17 Billion on content. While it’s unclear if that is just on original content or includes licensed content as well, it’s safe to assume the majority is on originals. As the streaming wars have gone on, streamers have increasingly focused on original and exclusive series that aren’t available anywhere else. Netflix was arguably the first streamer to have success with this, shows like Orange Is The New Black, House Of Cards might not be in the conversation as much now, but were huge hits that got others scrambling to compete at the time. Netflix gave shows a chance that didn’t fit the norm of what was being shown on TV at the time.
Not every show finds an audience straight away. Breaking Bad, a show that despite critical acclaim was a modest ratings hit, blossomed when it was put on Netflix. The wide availability raised awareness of the show and increased viewership for the final series. The first seasons of Parks and Recreation saw mixed reviews, with many citing it as a watered-down version of The Office. However the creators were able to learn from this, and the second season onwards is much beloved. Netflix’s own Bojack Horseman, took almost a whole season to find its feet, but it is now regarded as one of the best-animated shows of all time. Netflix obviously believed that shows like Everything Sucks!, The Get Down and Archive 81 had potential. Looking at reviews, critics and audiences clearly agreed, so why were they cut short?
Gone Too Soon
So what does Netflix consider a success if not good reviews? Emily In Paris has been met with middling reviews every season, and recently dropped its third season. Neil Gaiman, who wrote the graphic novels The Sandman series is based on, gave a rare insight while waiting to find out if the show was being renewed. The Sandman was released in August 2022 and a second season was confirmed in November. It was the eighth most-watched English Language show on the platform and spent seven weeks in the global top 10’s. Despite this, there was still doubt about a second season. Gaiman explained that part of the reason for the delay was because of the cost to produce it.
Gaiman also explained that part of the “data harvesting” Netflix do involves completion rate. This means how quickly viewers finish a series is a factor. “Bingeable” series, like the various reality or game shows, that are designed to be watched in one sitting, is looked at more favourably. This is likely a huge factor in why 1899 was not renewed, as although it was popular, its slow and thoughtful story is not designed for watching in one sitting.
To Be Continued?
Netflix has lost its reputation slightly in recent years, with many feeling that its price increase and cracking down on password sharing are not justified because so many shows are cancelled. Its approach of making several shows and hoping one goes viral appears to be wearing thin. While Disney+ has some massive IPs to work with, Amazon is willing to take a chance on more of its catalogue. Netflix has made some monster hits worth paying for, but with the likes of Stranger Things and The Umbrella Academy in their final seasons, they might have to work hard to find their next big hit.
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