Why Netflix Always Cancels Your Favourite Shows

Why Netflix Always Cancels Your Favourite Shows
Image: Netflix

Wrestling drama GLOW is the latest TV show to fall victim to Netflix’s trigger-happy cancellation policy. While there’s a consistent flow of fantastic television and films landing on the platform, the Netflix is quick to cancel shows when they underperform. Or when the platform loses interest in it. There’s several possible reasons why shows are cancelled by Netflix and not all of them are coronavirus-related.

GLOW fell prey to COVID-19

GLOW is a special case as it was originally renewed by Netflix for a fourth and final season. This run would’ve allowed the show to wrap up its loose threads and conclude the epic drama exactly the way the showrunners wanted to. Unfortunately, the spread of coronavirus meant the cast was only able to complete three weeks of filming before production shuttered. With the mounting challenges of filming in the coronavirus-era, Netflix chose to axe the promised episodes and end GLOW at three seasons. While it’s unfortunate, it’s a conundrum easily explained.

A local spokesperson from Netflix provided the follow statement about GLOW‘s cancellation:

“We’ve made the difficult decision not to do a fourth season of GLOW due to COVID, which makes shooting this physically intimate show with its large ensemble cast especially challenging. We are so grateful to creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, Jenji Kohan and all the writers, cast and crew for sharing this story about the incredible women of GLOW with us and the world.”

What’s less easy to understand is just how many shows Netflix has cancelled this year.

But what about all the other shows?

In 2020, Netflix has cancelled 23 shows. This included genre shows such as V Wars, October Faction, Messiah,  The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (which had a rabid fanbase), I Am Not Okay With This, Altered Carbon and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. These cancellations continue a long trend for the platform.

Netflix has a stunning range of shows covering multiple genres, but with so many new titles continually churned out, there has to be some sacrifice. ‘Throw everything at the wall and see what sticks’ is a technique consistently employed by Netflix to see what works, and what doesn’t.

It means Netflix launches a bunch of experimental shows and monitors buzz around the title to decide which ones to keep. The process means creators who work on more ‘dangerous’ or risky ideas get chances they wouldn’t otherwise, but it doesn’t guarantee future season orders.

While it’s easy to blame these cancellation decisions on ratings, Netflix is notoriously tight-lipped on how well its shows do. No public figures are available. The biggest deciding factor, according to Cindy Holland, vice president of original programming at Netflix, is whether shows are getting enough viewers to justify the cost of the series.

For genre shows, this is an essential factor because they tend to be far more expensive to produce than dramas or comedies. It also means they’re more likely to be axed as higher viewer numbers are required to justify a higher cost. After all, each season costs more than the last due to salaries and budget expectations.

The more cynical answer is Netflix relies on a constant flow of new content to entice subscribers. There has to be reasons to sign up to Netflix and newness is an important part of this. For new shows to attract viewers, older shows need to be curbed.

And without ongoing support, Netflix is more likely to cut costs early to avoid stagnation and preference new subscribers. A good example of this is Riverdale, which is backed by a fleet of young fans who share their love for the show on social media)

A cancellation on Netflix is difficult to avoid thanks to the realities of creating entertainment in the streaming era. Coronavirus is just another unfortunate hiccup in the Netflix cancellation formula.

This article has been updated with comment from Netflix about the cancellation of GLOW. They did not provide comment on the platform’s current cancellation policy.