Netflix boss says the service has never canceled a successful show

midian182

Posts: 8,495   +105
Staff member
WTF?! Are you sick and tired of becoming invested in a Netflix show that gains rave reviews and seems incredibly popular, only for the streaming service to cancel it? Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has responded to this irritatingly common phenomenon by insisting the company has "never canceled a successful show."

The list of beloved shows canceled by Netflix is a long and depressing one: Santa Clarita Diet, Altered Carbon, Sense8, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, GLOW, Warrior Nun, Archive 81, and many more. They were recently joined by 1899, which had also gained excellent reviews from critics and viewers, and Insider Job, an entertaining animation that Netflix had previously renewed for a new season before changing its mind.

Why does Netflix cancel so many shows that viewers love? Surely this is counter-productive, leading to people refusing to watch all but the most established flagships (I.e, Stranger Things) or simply stopping their subscriptions.

It's a sore point that Bloomberg raised in an interview with Sarandos and new co-CEO Greg Peters. The publication notes that social media is constantly filled with people outraged over Netflix canceling popular shows. Sarandos' response wasn't what you might expect:

"We have never canceled a successful show. A lot of these shows were well-intended but talk to a very small audience on a very big budget. The key to it is you have to be able to talk to a small audience on a small budget and a large audience at a large budget. If you do that well, you can do that forever."

So, it seems that, like so many things in life, Netflix's aggressive cancelation policy all comes down to money. Which, let's be honest, was pretty much assumed to be the case. Shows might be popular, but if their budgets are considerably larger than their audiences, expect Netflix to kill them off. Sarandos' words also suggest Netflix is unlikely ever to bring backed canned shows, no matter how many petitions fans start. Perhaps the best move, then, is to check a new Netflix show's budget before you start watching it.

Netflix is unlikely to be concerned by all the anger stemming from its cancelations. The company recovered from the shock of losing subscribers for the first time in a decade early last year by adding 7.66 million paid subscribers during the holiday season. It's also introduced the new ad-supported tier and will soon start charging subscribers who share their passwords with others.

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Neatfeatguy

Posts: 1,096   +2,023
Usually the shows they continue to drag on are ones that are pretty meh.

Stranger Things is a good example of this. I did enjoy the first season, but after that it was just a dumb downward spiral of crap and I can't understand what the draw was to it that Netflix continued to keep making new seasons.

Another good example is The Witcher. It just didn't really click. I don't know if it was the story or acting or a mix of both, but the show wasn't that good.

I thought a lot of other shows that had been canceled were great....

I tend to not bother to get invested in a new show that only has one season on Netflix because generally if I like a show it'll never see the light of day for a second season. I only keep Netflix around because my kids still like watching stuff on it. If they didn't I'm 99% sure I'd drop my subscription.
 

dangh

Posts: 857   +1,450
"We have never canceled a successful show. A lot of these shows were well-intended but talk to a very small audience on a very big budget."
So I guess Witcher is next? It address very small woke audience and takes nothing from the books or games except characters' names.
Shame Altered Carbon was cancelled, but tbh second series did not keep same level, and the main hero actor choice was surely to blame. Still was good to watch though, better than many other chewing gum produced last years.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 2,257   +4,397
Even though I vehemently and fundamentally disagree, I kinda see the logic behind the statement.

See Netflix is trying to remain a big time player. The reason why they're investing so heavily on their own shows is because they just cannot rely on other companies which are basically all trying to launch competing services to a ridiculous degree.

So their plan was to take advantage of their head start to transform their business from a digital content delivery service to a content production + delivery company.

However for them to call a show 'Successful' it has to sustain future production of the show as well as it's own marketing, it's delivery cost and drive subscriptions to the service. That's a lot to ask of a show that often has minuscule budgets compared to what say, Disney or HBO can throw at a successful show. They effectively end up on a no-man's land zone where they can't spend enough to guarantee success but they end up over-spending thinking they can find an unlikely winner with a few key names getting attached (More on that)

So this puts them on a position that's basically impossible for them to succeed based on their current vision (Which is where I fundamentally disagree) which is for them to compete as a mainstream video production company. Disney didn't build up out of nothing it's a company with like a century of accumulating money they can now use to buy very successful franchises. Think of it in terms of not just buying Star Wars but buying 40 years of marketing and public notoriety.

The mistake is Netflix wanting their shows to compete on that level instead of embracing the more moderate success that's more closely related to their moderate budget and reach: To give you an example their Mindhunter show. This is something they wanted to create to compete with pretty large police/murder dramas when in reality, true crime is a much more niche genre and the show was pretty successful as a true crime show but they budget it and planned it as if it was the next Dexter for example. The show is never going to do the same kind of numbers a show established by Showtime (And by extend, Paramount) spend quite a bit to develop.

So if you just think "It was an entertaining and reasonable show why did you cancel it?" then of course the statement of them never cancelling successful shows seems ridiculous. However their ambition for such show is so big and unrealistic they don't consider it a successful show.

The core issue here is that the premise for Mindhunter as a show is fine as a niché, true crime series. But many episodes were directed by David Fincher: he's going well, charge you David Fincher amounts for his work. Could you have trusted perhaps a less established director and saved a ton of money on production? Sure but that's only if you're measuring success on an order of magnitude lower than what the ambition you had shows by hiring a top Hollywood movie director to a show that's basically about cops sitting on a table to talk to serial killers: You didn't really need Fincher for such a show, you could have had production on the level of Law & Order and still have sufficiently interesting subject matter for it's smaller audience of true crime fans.

Once Netflix accepts that it doesn't needs to be Showtime or HBO or Disney and can instead maintain a large number of niche subscribers by producing a lot of niche shows then they wouldn't be posting such out of touch comments.
 

p51d007

Posts: 3,434   +3,112
When Netflix was basically the "only" movie streaming service, they had it all.
But, all of the movie producing & tv networks have their own streaming services, PULLED most of the
content people went to Netflix to stream.
Now, they are stuck with older movies & shows, and things they produce themselves.
Maybe in the future, Netflix will end up like Blockbuster.
 

Plutoisaplanet

Posts: 896   +1,426
"We have never canceled a successful show. A lot of these shows were well-intended but talk to a very small audience on a very big budget."
So I guess Witcher is next? It address very small woke audience and takes nothing from the books or games except characters' names.
Shame Altered Carbon was cancelled, but tbh second series did not keep same level, and the main hero actor choice was surely to blame. Still was good to watch though, better than many other chewing gum produced last years.
This. I understand why they canceled it and Santa Clarita diet, even though I very much enjoyed both shows when they came out. The other thing I do want to mention is sometimes Netflix half-asses shows after they've garnered cult followings. This happened with their set of Defenders series (I mean Iron Fist was just garbage and you can tell they made it because they had to), and they resorted to gimmicks in many parts of the last season of Lucifer.
 

Neatfeatguy

Posts: 1,096   +2,023
This. I understand why they canceled it and Santa Clarita diet, even though I very much enjoyed both shows when they came out. The other thing I do want to mention is sometimes Netflix half-asses shows after they've garnered cult followings. This happened with their set of Defenders series (I mean Iron Fist was just garbage and you can tell they made it because they had to), and they resorted to gimmicks in many parts of the last season of Lucifer.
I wish I never watched Iron Fist....that whole first season was:
"I'm Iron Fist!" then followed by "I can't do it." (cry, woah is me, cry, complain, cry some more), then followed by "I'm Iron Fist!".....and then again followed by "I can't do it." Rinse and repeat ad nauseum. The second season wasn't any better.

Luke Cage was only slightly better than Iron Fist.
Defenders was okay, but that's because it had Jessica Jones and Daredevil in it.
At least Daredevil and Jessica Jones were good and I thought The Punisher was probably the best out of them all.

When Netflix was basically the "only" movie streaming service, they had it all.
But, all of the movie producing & tv networks have their own streaming services, PULLED most of the
content people went to Netflix to stream.
Now, they are stuck with older movies & shows, and things they produce themselves.
Maybe in the future, Netflix will end up like Blockbuster.

Thing is, with shows constantly popping up (not just on Netflix) and then vanishing after 1, maybe 2 seasons, it's hard to justify really putting any kind of time or money into these streaming services. My wife and I have been working on buying TV series on DVD and I just put them on my Plex server. We watch things on Plex more than any other streaming service. Shows you can't always easily find on streaming services anymore or they show up on streaming channels you don't want to add to your already big list of channels you pay for.

Most recent TV series I've added are:
Schitt's Creek
Grace and Frankie (still waiting to see if the final Season 7 will be released on DVD)
Burn Notice
Friends
Futurama (excited a new season is coming out, but to be released on Hulu....I wonder if this season will make it to DVD/Bluray)
House
Married with Children
Psych (I wish the movies were out on DVD/Bluray so I could add them to my server. This is probably my favorite show)
...and the list goes on

Coupled with the fact I've also got over a thousand movies on there, I've got my own streaming server that gives us enough stuff to stay entertained, even if most of it is stuff we've seen before. I'd rather re-watch stuff that I enjoy instead of trying to find the next show I like, only to see it canceled because a business like Netflix blew it's load on the first season and they can't justify spending more to continue the show.
 

m4a4

Posts: 3,184   +4,270
TechSpot Elite
Yeah, he right.

It just depends on the definition of "successful".

That would be where people would like to think that some shows should get another season to maybe improve success (or at least end the story), instead of cancelling it the second it hits that hard, unforgiving line of "unsuccessful".
 

sreams

Posts: 371   +532
I think the disconnect here is that the author thinks "success" equals positive reviews and enthusiasm over a show, while Netflix is talking purely about viewership numbers and profits.
 

andyross

Posts: 20   +13
I think the disconnect here is that the author thinks "success" equals positive reviews and enthusiasm over a show, while Netflix is talking purely about viewership numbers and profits.
But, there is also prestige. A few shows that may be marginal in profit/loss but high in buzz can help draw in viewers for other shows. Cancelling shows based on cold profit/loss like that can also have a negative effect on attracting talent in the future.
 

NintPlayBox

Posts: 122   +144
Usually the shows they continue to drag on are ones that are pretty meh.

Stranger Things is a good example of this. I did enjoy the first season, but after that it was just a dumb downward spiral of crap and I can't understand what the draw was to it that Netflix continued to keep making new seasons.

Another good example is The Witcher. It just didn't really click. I don't know if it was the story or acting or a mix of both, but the show wasn't that good.

I thought a lot of other shows that had been canceled were great....

I tend to not bother to get invested in a new show that only has one season on Netflix because generally if I like a show it'll never see the light of day for a second season. I only keep Netflix around because my kids still like watching stuff on it. If they didn't I'm 99% sure I'd drop my subscription.
Shows that are "meh" to you like Stranger Things are the ones actually making money, meaning those are the shows most people watch.... ultimately meaning your taste in shows are pretty meh and unsuccessful for Netflix.
 

Neatfeatguy

Posts: 1,096   +2,023
Shows that are "meh" to you like Stranger Things are the ones actually making money, meaning those are the shows most people watch.... ultimately meaning your taste in shows are pretty meh and unsuccessful for Netflix.
So you turn to taking shots at people instead of just accepting the fact they don't enjoy what everyone else might think is good?

Stranger Things started out good, but kind of petered out. Season 1 was good, 2 was decent, 3....I watched it but I don't even remember what happened in it and 4 was so boring that I stopped watching half way through.

Hopefully you liked it, since it seems I struck a chord when I said it wasn't that great after the first season. What you watch doesn't impact me so why should you care what I may or may not enjoy?
 

Burty117

Posts: 4,700   +3,079
Same, but there lies the reason why; we can't say the same about the 2nd season.
Let's be honest though, they could have easily got it back on track if they had a third season. It's why I used the show as a pure example of a series being cancelled too early and still has a reasonable fan base out there.

If they messed up the third season as well, then I could understand ending it. Ending after two Seasons though, when the first was so good and the second wasn't rubbish but, just not as good as the first and honestly, the first was so good it was always going to be a tough act to follow, at least in a third season you can see where the show is heading.
 

Inthenstus

Posts: 148   +232
Usually the shows they continue to drag on are ones that are pretty meh.

Stranger Things is a good example of this. I did enjoy the first season, but after that it was just a dumb downward spiral of crap and I can't understand what the draw was to it that Netflix continued to keep making new seasons.

Another good example is The Witcher. It just didn't really click. I don't know if it was the story or acting or a mix of both, but the show wasn't that good.

I thought a lot of other shows that had been canceled were great....

I tend to not bother to get invested in a new show that only has one season on Netflix because generally if I like a show it'll never see the light of day for a second season. I only keep Netflix around because my kids still like watching stuff on it. If they didn't I'm 99% sure I'd drop my subscription.

uh… The Witcher is great, millions live Stranger Things.. you just have a bad taste in shows my dude.
 

ChrisH1

Posts: 218   +113
Well if they cancelled it, it wasn't successful! Reminds me of the team board CEO who took the pile of 30 applications for coaches and threw 25 of them away. When another board member said "you didn't even look at them", he said, "no point keeping the unlucky ones".
 

Plutoisaplanet

Posts: 896   +1,426
Thing is, with shows constantly popping up (not just on Netflix) and then vanishing after 1, maybe 2 seasons, it's hard to justify really putting any kind of time or money into these streaming services. My wife and I have been working on buying TV series on DVD and I just put them on my Plex server. We watch things on Plex more than any other streaming service. Shows you can't always easily find on streaming services anymore or they show up on streaming channels you don't want to add to your already big list of channels you pay for.

Most recent TV series I've added are:
Schitt's Creek
Grace and Frankie (still waiting to see if the final Season 7 will be released on DVD)
Burn Notice
Friends
Futurama (excited a new season is coming out, but to be released on Hulu....I wonder if this season will make it to DVD/Bluray)
House
Married with Children
Psych (I wish the movies were out on DVD/Bluray so I could add them to my server. This is probably my favorite show)
...and the list goes on

Coupled with the fact I've also got over a thousand movies on there, I've got my own streaming server that gives us enough stuff to stay entertained, even if most of it is stuff we've seen before. I'd rather re-watch stuff that I enjoy instead of trying to find the next show I like, only to see it canceled because a business like Netflix blew it's load on the first season and they can't justify spending more to continue the show.
Based on your tastes, I'd definitely recommend White Collar. No need to pay Netflix for that suggestion!
 

GoldenGoat

Posts: 119   +190
If I had stock in Netflix, I would dump it right now. This guy has old tv network mentality. You don't need to put all your money into "popular" shows because ratings of that show don't actually matter that much. You don't get paid based on ratings (the number of people who watch a specific show) like it was on network tv because you don't make more advertising money for more viewers of that particular show. Instead, you get paid based on subscriber count. You need to have enough content for each person enjoy so they don't cancel the subscription and not everyone likes the same things. It doesn't matter how many people watch a show. It matters how many people didn't unsubscribe because of that show. It blows my mind that the CEO of Netflix hasn't figured that out. It is more difficult to measure, but it is the metric that actually matter. I know they were trying to get into ads, but I think they should have already figured out that people don't want that and so ratings-ad strategies are irrelevant.