How Netflix Destroys Its Own Shows

by Connor Pugh ‘24

Close viewers of their favorite Netflix shows may have noticed a recent trend of frequent cancellations of in-house original content after only one or two seasons, leaving the story unresolved or ending on an unsatisfying note. Netflix original shows like Inside Job and 1899 have been cancelled despite substantial audience and critic praise, leaving many fans frustrated and confused as to why Netflix cancels certain shows but renews others seemingly at random. A recent investigation by Forbes into Netflix’s cancellation policies singles out completion rate as the biggest factor in deciding what shows Netflix cancels and renews. Forbes determined that an acceptable completion rate is around 50 percent of those who watched the show completing it, as evidenced by a strong correlation between shows under the 50 percent completion rate being canceled and renewals for those above 50 percent.

In prioritizing what keeps the majority of viewers’ attention for the longest time, creators are directed towards making shows that appeal to an established norm, disincentivizing experimentation and trying out new ideas. Additionally, shows that may take a bit to get going and find their audiences are canceled before they even get an opportunity, in turn hurting Netflix itself in the long run as potential chances for successful shows are squandered. Shows such as Breaking Bad and The Office took a couple of seasons to finally find their audiences, but are now monoliths of the television medium, becoming pop culture phenomena in their own right and making major money for their creators. By canceling shows early on, Netflix prevents their own productions from reaching the right audience, alienates potential new customers, and wastes time and money.

Netflix’s policies towards canceling shows are harming more than helping, but numerous things can be done to improve the situation. Instead of taking a quantity over quality approach and throwing money at everything and axing anything that doesn’t meet their specific requirements, Netflix could be more selective in their original content production, creating less content overall, but guaranteeing each individual show’s quality to a greater extent. With less space filled by excess original content, Netflix can spend more time on marketing so their shows could reach their appropriate audiences. This would mean the platform would not be stuffed with repetitive content designed only to attract as many people as possible and Netflix would have a greater quality assurance for their original content.

Netflix’s current attitude towards cancellations on their platform is actively harming its artists and viewers, which they must rectify if they are to keep hold of their position as the top creator of original content in the bloated industry of streaming services.