There’s no question that Netflix is an absolute juggernaut when it comes to media content. Each and every month, the streaming giant releases an eclectic array of original programming that’s practically impossible for any one person to keep up with. And speaking to Netflix’s ambitious goals with respect to original content, the company earlier this year said that it plans to have 1,000 originals on its platform by the end of 2018.
At the same time, Netflix in recent months has gone on something of a cancellation spree. In 2018 alone, Netflix canceled 13 shows, including the critically-acclaimed Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Everything Sucks, and the poorly received Disjointed. All the more interesting is that some shows were given a pink-slip after just one season on the air.
In light of this, a new report from MarketWatch claims that Netflix is finally starting to pay attention to ratings, though it’s worth noting that the company still does not disclose viewership totals for individual shows.
One industry source who works for a digital data company and spoke on condition of anonymity said he knew of three Netflix shows that failed to attract 1 million U.S. viewers in the first seven days of release: “Gypsy,” a drama starring Naomi Watts and Billy Crudup; “Girlboss,” a comedy inspired by Sophia Amoruso’s business memoir; and “Flaked,” a dramatic comedy starring Will Arnett about a troubled self-help guru.
Personally, I don’t think the seemingly unprecedented number of cancellations is cause for concern or representative of a shift in Netflix’s programming strategy. For starters, with the company rolling out more original content than ever before, it would make sense for cancellations to rise accordingly. Further, as Netflix accumulates more shows, any one show becomes less integral to the platform overall.
If anything, Netflix’s decision to cancel shows should be viewed as a good thing insofar that it underscores the company’s willingness to take big bets and go back to the drawing board when some of those bets fail. Take Disjointed, for example, the company’s marijuana-themed Office parody of a weed dispensary. It may very well be one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen and overall reviews of the show were abysmal. We don’t have specific ratings for the program but I can’t imagine that it moved the needle. By cancelling the show, and others, Netflix managed to free up even more money in its gargantuan budget to fund different projects.
On a related note, Netflix seems intent on funding more ambitious projects that necessarily require bigger budgets. Over the past few days alone, we’ve learned that Netflix inked a deal with the Obamas and a feature film deal with Michael Bay and Ryan Reynolds. These types of deals don’t come cheap and it would only make sense for Netflix to cancel underperforming shows as part of a broader effort to fund more unique programming efforts.
All that said, the real metrics that matter to Netflix center on subscriber growth and user engagement. As to the former, Netflix’s subscriber base continues to grow at an impressive clip, with the company noting a few weeks ago that its service now boats more than 125 million subscribers across the globe. As a point of reference, Netflix at the end of 2014 had 57.4 million subscribers, which is to say that subscriber growth more than doubled since then. Even more impressive is that Netflix’s worldwide subscriber base has increased by 25% over the last year alone, jumping from 100 million to 125 million in about 12 months time.