Netflix cancelled Iron Fist and Luke Cage to the surprise of fans, but the shows' diminished viewership is the result of Netflix's release strategy. Last month, Netflix cancelled Iron Fist after season 2, then the following week cancelled Luke Cage after its sophomore outing as well. Both shows had debuted their second seasons in 2018, a year that also saw the release of Jessica Jones season 2 and Daredevil season 3. In fact, 2018 was the first year Netflix released four seasons of its Marvel shows. Initially, Netflix only released two seasons of the expensive Marvel series a year, upping that number to three in 2017, then increasing the output again for 2018.
This increased output of Marvel shows is reflective of Netflix's overall push to release more original content every year. In 2018, Netflix fed $8 billion into its original content, which was projected earlier in the calendar year to hit 700 original movies and TV shows by year's end. With so much content being produced and released throughout the year, it inevitably means some movies and series will get left behind as viewers have more to choose from in terms of what they watch. It appears Netflix's strategy of flooding the market with a great deal of new content has worked against its Marvel offerings, rather than for the shows.
As evidenced by analytics company Jumpshot's viewer data, the Marvel Netflix shows have been losing viewers for years. Though that's to be expected of any television series, and these numbers aren't confirmed by Netflix, they do paint the picture that viewers simply aren't tuning into the Marvel Netflix shows as much as in previous years. Fans have theorized why Luke Cage and Iron Fist were cancelled - including that Netflix is paving the way for a Heroes for Hire TV show - but Jumpshot's data seems to clearly indicate viewership was down. So then, the question becomes why viewership was down. Iron Fist season 2 vastly improved upon season 1, and many agreed Luke Cage season 2 was also better than an already strong freshman season. Instead of the content of the series, the problem may have been in Netflix's release strategy.
Increasingly, Netflix's release strategy has become to dump a lot of content on its streaming platform and rely on its algorithm to promote shows based on a user's viewing history. The streamer rarely does huge promotional pushes for its original content, and then it's only for select movies or TV shows. As a result, Netflix originals must rely on the algorithm and/or word of mouth. While that can be successful - just look at the success of To All The Boys I've Loved Before this summer - it more often leads to shows and movies being buried amid the glut of content. And with Netflix increasing their output of Marvel shows in 2018, not only did the new seasons of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Daredevil need to compete with other original content released by the streamer, they competed with each other for viewers whose interest overlapped (not to mention, they also needed to overcome viewer fatigue of the Marvel Netflix shows).
The consequence of that competition is Luke Cage and Iron Fist lagging behind in terms of viewers, and being cancelled as a result. The sophomore seasons of these Marvel series were lost amid other original Netflix content and the streaming service's other Marvel shows. Certainly, there are those who will argue that Luke Cage and Iron Fist failing to keep their viewership numbers up despite the wealth of competition is indicative of the shows not being good enough to break through. However, when Netflix's entire release strategy has become about flooding its originals library with more movies and TV shows than any user could feasibly watch, they're ensuring certain titles get buried. Netflix effectively buried Luke Cage and Iron Fist, then the company cancelled the series when their viewership numbers dropped as a result of the streamer's own release strategy. Essentially, Netflix killed Luke Cage and Iron Fist itself.