Why Netflix Is Right to Cancel the Shows No One Is Watching

Philip Bates 27-07-2017

Netflix has been roundly criticized in some quarters after announcing a spate of cancellations, including fan favorites such as Sense8.


These cancellations are set to continue too, with CEO Reed Hastings recently saying:

“We’ve cancelled very few shows. I’m always pushing the content team: ‘We have to take more risk; you have to try more crazy things. Because we should have a higher cancel rate overall.”

And you know what? He’s absolutely right. Netflix should be cancelling the shows no one is watching, and here are all the reasons why.

Netflix Exists to Make Money

While bingeing on shows or searching for the latest movies How to Find Netflix Movies You Will Love Netflix has a huge library of content. Which is why you need to know how to find movies you're guaranteed to love. Thankfully for you this article is packed with tips. Read More , it’s easy to forget that Netflix is driven by one thing: money. You probably don’t even notice the $9.99 per month leaving your bank account. After all, Netflix is good value Is Netflix Worth The Money? There are more people who don't subscribe to Netflix as those who do, and that swathe of the population wants to know if they're missing out on anything. Is Netflix worth the money? Read More , right?

Unlike commercial networks, you don’t see advertisements. You don’t have to skip the boring parts because you won’t see a minute-long endorsement for a vacuum cleaner. Nonetheless, the popularity of shows is what dictates fees on Netflix.

Popular series generally mean more subscribers, and the more viewers there, the longer fees can remain comparatively cheap. This is why Netflix is always keen to promote its original Marvel series Marvel's Netflix Shows, Reviewed and Ranked Marvel's comic book creations are now so popular that four of them have their own shows on Netflix. In this article we review each show and rank them in order of awesomeness. Read More so heavily: Marvel has a massive following Discover Marvel Comics & Marvel Characters on the Web Marvel Comics was founded in 1939 as Timely Comics before becoming Atlas Comics in the 1950s and eventually the company we know and love in the 1960s. This was the era when Jack Kirby, Steve... Read More who will join Netflix purely to follow the adventures of Luke Cage and co.


daredevil punisher

Netflix isn’t entirely free of advertising though — it’s just not in a form that’s instantly recognizable.

Without heavy-hitting shows such as Stranger Things, Netflix couldn’t command high rates for product placements.

In case you’re unfamiliar with that term, it’s a clever technique used across the film and TV industry in which brands pay for their products to have screen time. Notably, the 24th James Bond film, Spectre, hit headlines for the number of brands seen throughout How James Bond Made Me Buy an Apple Watch Bond has always had a thing for watches. Indeed, some of the best gadgets Bond has ever used have been timepieces. Which means he would buy an Apple Watch. As will I. Read More , including the Aston Martin DB10, Heineken, and the Sony Xperia Z5 smartphone. Indeed, without these product placements, the film wouldn’t have been made at all.


If you see an Apple Mac being used The Beginners Guide for Getting Started With Mac and iPhone Applications The purpose of this article is to introduce you to the basic ways to browse and download apps for your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and/or iPod touch. If you are an experienced user of Apple devices,... Read More in Daredevil, that’s no coincidence.

We expect ordinary networks to cancel shows in order to satisfy advertisers and critics, so why should we think Netflix is any different?

You Need to Stop Caring About Shows

There might be an answer to that question here. Society encourages us all to get too attached to shows. Just look at the dedicated followings for shows like Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, and Star Trek. Until Star Trek: Discovery, the latter hasn’t produced new content for TV since Enterprise concluded in 2005. But the Star Trek fandom A Beginner's Guide to the Star Trek Franchise Most people know about Captain Kirk, Spock, and the Starship Enterprise. But beyond that, how much do you know about the Star Trek franchise? Our beginner's guide answers all of your questions. Read More loves it so much that long breaks don’t damage the brand.

Your GIFs, fan art, and “shipping” of characters is great for Netflix because it drums up extra publicity for its various series.


It’s entirely necessary for shows that don’t have a massive following to be cancelled. You’d expect it from ABC and the BBC, so you should expect it from Netflix too.

The Get Down, Hemlock Grove, and Richie Rich came and went, and very few people cared. While The Get Down was acclaimed, it couldn’t justify its reported $120 million budget.

Now that Netflix has 100 million subscribers Netflix Now Has Over 100 Million Subscribers Netflix has announced its latest financials, but before you click away for fear of being bored, there's some rather interesting information buried in the Q2, 2017 earnings. Read More , it has to cater for a wide range of tastes, but equally, if it spreads itself too thinly, finances will suffer. On the whole, it has to run with the narratives that prove the most popular and, by extension, the most financially sound. It’s survival of the fittest.


Of course you might have grown attached to a particular show, but at least be grateful that Netflix made it in the first place. You can rewatch the episodes that exist again and again. Meanwhile, the streaming service attempts to find another narrative that works for a bigger slice of its audience, including you.

Don’t be sad about what’s been and gone: look to the future with optimism.

Netflix Values Quality Over Quantity

Having said all of that, for every unpopular show, there’s a cancellation that hits hard.

Sense8 is a perfect example of this. However much you care for a series, we need to admit that they all have short shelf lives. The strictures of the format mean burnout is inevitable.

Yes, even the ever-changing Doctor Who. Its format and ability to adapt has kept it popular since 1963, but it had to survive a 16-year hiatus. As society shifts, so must shows. The TV industry wasn’t especially welcoming to science fiction in the early 2000s, but for its 2005 revival, audiences were largely receptive to such escapist forms of entertainment again.

Personal burnout is a factor too. A show becomes unrecognizable to you, or the producers make a decision that goes against your idealized view of the show. Narratives have their limitations, and we need to accept that.

Surely it’s preferable that a show be cancelled before it morphs into something you no longer recognize as the show you fell in love with.

All networks are guilty of dragging a show out for too long, just for profits. Take, for example, The Simpsons, which I love. But compare “Lisa the Vegetarian” to “Lisa Goes Gaga,” and you’ll see how the mighty have fallen.

Fed up with The Simpsons being used as an example of this? Okay, try: Dexter, Lost, The Office (US), Nip/Tuck, Heroes, Family Guy, or CSI and its 300 spin-offs (rough estimate). They all got gradually worse as time went on.

I’d much rather see a show end in a just manner than have it tainted by quality issues.

Interestingly, Netflix responded to fan outrage over Sense8‘s ending by commissioning a two-hour finale Netflix Brings Sense8 Back for One Final Episode Netflix is bringing Sense8 back for a two-hour special designed to wrap up all the loose ends. Unfortunately that will then be the end of Sense8 for good. Probably. Read More . And despite being the service’s most expensive drama, Netflix intends to continue The Crown until it reaches a natural conclusion.

These go to show that the company respects the importance of narrative closure.

Social Media Holds the Key

Any publicity is good publicity. There’s an argument to be made that Netflix values people talking about its shows more than actual viewing figures, though the former informs the latter. Sounds mad, right?

Netflix’s intention has always been to make a cultural impact: the more it’s seen as one of the go-to providers for entertainment Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Which Should You Choose? It has been years since we've compared heavy-hitting streaming services, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. And with changes in pricing, content, quality, and interface, we thought it was time to revisit the topic. Read More , the better its bottom line. Not only does it enjoy being the top streaming service, but it also likes to be seen as the best.

This accounts for Iron Fist — not critically acclaimed, but a lot better than many naysayers will have you believe. It got a lot of people talking, however, both positively and negatively, and that resulted in it being the most-binged Netflix show of its Marvel offerings so far in 2017 15 New Netflix Originals You'll Be Watching in 2017 Netflix is now producing its own original content. And some of the new Netflix Originals set to debut in 2017 definitely look like they'll be worth watching. Read More .

And because of this, Iron Fist has been renewed for a second season.

Sure, some of the audience will have watched on the basis of “it’s so bad, it’s good.” But equally, the number of social media expressions to its name makes it very unlikely that those viewers are its core audience.

iron fist

Similarly, the interest generated in Daredevil Season 2 has led to the commission of a Punisher show.

But if social impact is held in high-esteem — indeed, enough to save a show that’s been panned otherwise — the lack of networking interest in a series is a final death knell. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword, and social media has a considerable blade to wield.

Without a vocal following, Netflix has to drum up publicity. Of course, all brands need to do that, but consumers are more sceptical of this than about enthusiastic viewers. When Netflix is the only source of noise, the show hasn’t generated any extra interest in the service as a whole. That’s worse than negative press.

Netflix Is Now More Like a TV Network

Part of the issue here is a shift in Netflix’s main agenda. This is best encapsulated by Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos, who said:

“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.”

This means Netflix doesn’t want to be seen solely as a place to watch content produced by other companies for other networks. It wants to be a serious contender in creating original TV shows and films, often at the expense of having an extensive catalog Netflix Removes 50% of its Catalog to Fund Original Content Have you noticed the Netflix catalog getting smaller in recent years? We now know the number of titles available on Netflix has been halved since 2012 to fund original content. Read More . That’s been the plan for a long time, but perceptions of Netflix have largely remained the same.

Netflix has every right to cancel whatever shows it wants Netflix Keeps Cancelling Its Best Original Shows Netflix has cancelled Girlboss after just one season, having previous cancelled The Get Down and Sense8. So it seems Netflix is ruthlessly canning any show that doesn't find an audience. Read More . And doing so really just solidifies as reputation as being a TV network and not just a service where old shows go to die.

Are you upset about Netflix cancelling its original shows? Would you prefer Netflix to shift its focus back to recycled content? Or should Netflix swing the ax on more shows as it bids to cater to more viewers with more diverse tastes? The comments are open below.

Image Credit: Twin Design via Shutterstock.com

Related topics: Media Streaming, Netflix, Television.

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  1. papa
    August 1, 2017 at 4:46 am

    I have zero issues with Netflix cancelling their shows. The problem starts when they don't bring closure to the main storyline of drama shows like Sense8, for example. That is a disrespect to the viewers who were just left hanging. The show cancelling wouldn't have caused such an uproar had Netflix dedicated a couple of episodes to finish it properly, as they are rightfully doing now. It's ironic how you say we shouldn't care too much about the shows, when that's exactly what Netflix or any other content creator aims to: hook people as much as they can. So out of courtesy and respect, they should finish their shows, be it in a hurried or badly manner, but finish them.

    • Kurik
      August 1, 2017 at 1:35 pm

      That's exactly what I came to say as well. Netflix is trying to differentiate itself from the rest so this is one area it should put funds aside for. If you are gonna cancel the show - give the viewers who spent time and yes money investing in it some closure. They will win hearts and minds that way. Right now I rarely watch new series without first giving it a few seasons where I hear news there is some closure to it. I knew GoT was limited so I got on board, same with Breaking Bad, Leftovers, Banshee and a slew of others that have been great tele. If I know a season 'wraps' up story threads where it could be the final I will engage as well. I would love to take a chance with more shows but I DO get invested in the story - that's the point - but I have been disappointed WAY too often.

  2. Ted
    July 31, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    So using a failing method that has put most TV networks to near extinction is their plan? That makes so much more sense than following the plan that gained them so much popularity and made people join in the first place. I guess we can look forward to their "original" content (and other content that they just stick their name on) getting blander and more generic until CBS swallows them up.

  3. Gazoo
    July 31, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Lots of Netflix's current developmental offerings are produced by those with vision that are not handcuffed by a mass mentality. The flip-side to your argument is that shows will eventually cater to the lowest common denominator.

    Lots of shiny, flashy objects. Little in the way of plot or development. Maybe they'll bring back laugh tracks.

    There needs to be a ratings line that isn't too high in order to meet the kind of quality programming Netflix is currently known for. It's a Mr. Wizard vs Bill Nye comparison (first thing that popped into my mind after seeing a couple of Wizard videos recently).

    Netflix attracks quality people because quality product. Down the line, it could (will) simply be predictable formats. We are already inundated with that.

  4. Terry
    July 28, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    I'm sorry, but you are only partially correct with this article.......Netflix does and should cancel underperforming shows. But it also falls on them to properly manage and advertise their shows. and mostly, all the fans want, is the story to wrap up nicely. as long as the series ends with the loose ends tied up, everyone takes it a lot better.

  5. KT
    July 28, 2017 at 4:43 am

    If you follow investing at all, you've heard of FANG: Facebook, Amazon/Apple, Netflix, Google. As they go, the tech sector goes, so I understand the position Netflix is in. As for their shows, I like the direction they're going with risk taking on original content. And finally on a personal note: More Castlevania!