If you’re a fan of Netflix shows, you might want to prepare yourself in the coming months. Recently the streaming giant canceled two of its shows, The Get Down, a hip-hop drama from Baz Luhrman, and Sense8, a sci-fi thriller from the Whachowskis. This news came as a surprise to many. While neither show was a big success, Netflix as a television provider has been historically reluctant to terminate its programming. The service’s only other high profile cancellation was Bloodline, which was announced in September of last year. While this practice was once rare for Netflix, Reed Hastings, the company’s CEO, suggested that it might become more frequent down the road.
In a recent interview with CNBC, Reed Hastings revealed that, though Netflix still has an incredibly high “hit-ratio,” the company might have to raise their cancel rate. It seems Hastings has no intention to slow down risk taking, referencing the success of 13 Reasons Why as proof of the advantages of taking risks. Still, it seems like Netflix could be less forgiving to low performing shows going forward. So what does this mean for a station that rarely cancels content? A network that, conversely, brings shows back to life (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Arrested Development) rather than cutting their lives short. Though Netflix was once a garden of Eden for bold new TV, it’s beginning to resemble the Wild West.
Predicting Netflix’s future cancelations could prove tricky, since the two most obvious targets have already been taken out. While adored by niche audiences, both The Get Down and Sense8 failed to achieve the widespread success of an Orange is the New Black or House of Cards. The shows were also both infamously costly. So it might make sense to think if a show is both unpopular and pricey, it’s bound to be the next victim of Netflix’s canceling spree. The problem is no other Netflix show fit the bill. With The Get Down and Sense8 off the table, no other shows on Netflix are simultaneously unsuccessful and expensive.
Let’s look at the other big-budget shows under Netflix’s purview. The most expensive show on Netflix, which coincidentally is considered the most expensive show of all time, is The Crown. But the show, which chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth II, was a resounding success for Netflix. Given that it has already been renewed for another season (and given creator Pete Morgan’s plan of examining many decades of Elizabeth’s life), it’s safe to assume that The Crown will be with us for a while. Another big-budget Netflix drama is Narcos, a drama about Pablo Escobar that shoots on location in Colombia. Narcos, currently two seasons in, has secured a third and fourth season, so there’s no danger of it getting the ax.
There are other reasons why the hypothesis of big-budget shows getting canceled is flawed. With Amazon and Hulu stepping up their game with original content, Netflix is feeling the pressure to stay dominant, or at least relevant, in the increasingly competitive field of streaming services. Reed Hastings admitted to Amazon’s rise feeling “scary” for Netflix. As a result, Netflix will actually be increasing their budget for content, upping the company’s $6 billion investment for this year alone. To keep pace with the growth of their membership base, Hastings claims Netflix will want to expand its content budget, and include even more shows (and original movies) than they already have.
So things in Netflix Land still seem pretty sunny, even with the recent endings of The Get Down and Sense8. So much so that Hasting’s promise of future cancellations seems more like an offhand comment than a new mission statement. But still, there’s no denying that canceling shows has become more commonplace for Netflix than it had been previously. The premature offing of Bloodline and Marco Polo suggested that was the case even before The Get Down and Sense8 met their ends. But, as stated before, with these shows out of the way, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason for Netflix to keep aiming at costly shows. Instead of offing a few big budget series, it’s likelier Netflix will shift its focus on a larger number of shows with modest budgets. These shows might not be detrimental to the Netflix financially, but they could prove distracting. Especially if the fail to gain traction critically.
Right now, Netflix could follow HBO’s habit of canceling small scale shows of a particular genre. HBO has been known to cancel low performing half-hour comedies, such as Enlightened and Togetherness. Both shows were well liked by critics, but since HBO didn’t stand to lose many viewers from their absence, both were also easy picks for cancellation. Netflix has a few shows running now that are of a similar type, but not nearly as appreciated critically. Flaked, a Netflix dramedy starring and created by Will Arnett, was poorly received in its first season last year. Its season two renewal actually came as a surprise to many viewers. Girlboss, a half-hour show based on the autobiography of millionaire Sophia Amoruso, had an even worse reception. The show’s first season, which arrived this year in April, currently has a 30% score on Rotten Tomatoes. A renewal for Girlboss is still pending, so who knows how safe it is with Reed Hasting’s new initiative.
Admittedly, this cancellation scare could end up amounting to nothing more than blind panicking. While Hastings let slip he might be more lenient towards the idea of canceling shows, it was a small fragment of an interview that largely celebrated Netflix’s successes and emphasized the need to press onward with original content. Assuming Netflix is unperturbed by their low-budget, low-performing shows, and hoping that higher profile upcoming shows like GLOW don’t bomb, it could turn out that Netflix returns to a state where cancellation is rare once again. But the way things stand now, if Netflix does continue swinging the ax, its current big-budget shows are the ones fans should worry about least. Those half-hour dramedies, on the other hand, might not have the brightest futures ahead of them.
How did you feel about The Get Down and Sense8 getting canceled? Which Netflix series are you afraid will get canceled next? Comment away!