“Netflix cancels everything!”. That’s a rallying cry some like to repeat everytime Netflix does cancel a show. But does it hold up the scrutiny of analysis? In 2021, I methodically logged in every Netflix series that came out and checked their status to see what was the cancellation rate for Netflix Original series. I still do, because it’s an ongoing task regarding the 2021 series, even in 2022 and probably even 2023 as we’ll continue to learn about the fate of the series still in limbo.
Editor’s note: This is an English translation of a Netflix & Chiffres article published on April 29th, 2022.
Here is how I decided to classify the status of the series:
- Renewals: Series that were renewed either officially or visibly (if a new season came out later in 2021 or in 2022 for example). Some series might have been renewed multiple times over the course of the year.
- Completed Series: Series with multiple seasons for which it has been announced before the release that the season would be the last or limited series that was announced as such. Some of you might consider that renewing a series for a final season is like a cancellation but I don’t. At least, creators could finish their series.
- Cancellations: Series that were officially cancelled (either announced by Netflix or its creators) after the release of the season.
- In limbo: Series for which we have had no indication on whether they are renewed, cancelled or even if they ended “properly” with no future seasons planned. They might have been renewed or cancelled but so far, we’re in the dark.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into the main chart.
So far, 18 Netflix Originals shows have been canceled from their 2021 debuts.
11 have been officially canceled after only one season:
- The Irregulars (UK)
- Jupiter’s Legacy (US)
- Dad, Stop Embarrassing Me! (US)
- Country Comfort (US)
- The Crew (US)
- Hit & Run (ISR)
- Zero (ITA)
- Zero Chill (UK)
- City of Ghosts (US)
- Pretty Smart (US)
Out of the 11 on this list, 4 are US sitcoms, 2 are teen dramas and 2 are superheroes shows (The Italian show Zero is a contemporary and urban take on superheroes).
We point the sitcoms out specifically because the latest rumors coming from Netflix is that they did not want “sad-coms” now and wanted “happy sitcoms” instead.
Well, they already tried that in 2021 and it did not pan out for most of them so I find it a bit surprising that they would still want that type of show or make it a “new” demand to producers.
Cowboy Bebop and Jupiter’s Legacy are arguably the biggest (and most costly) cancellations of 2021 and we learned recently that Cowboy Beboy was renewed for a second season before the release of the first season but was canceled right after.
7 shows were canceled after two seasons:
- Idhun (ES)
- Hache (ES)
- Monarca (ES)
- Bonding (US)
- Gentefied (US)
- Another life (US)
- The Baby-Sitters Club (US) – whose creator went on record to mention that it was all the fault of “the algorithm”.
18 cancellations in a year is a lot if you compare to traditional networks but for Netflix, that’s only 7,8% of its original shows it released in 2021. If we assume that all the series in limbo are most likely canceled, that rate goes up to 34,5%, which would be a third of its series. In 2020, Bela Bajaria mentioned that the cancellation rate of Netflix was around 33% so that would check out.
Why were those shows canceled? From what we learned about Netflix thanks to leaks, the streamer studies an array of parameters to decide if a show gets renewed or canceled: its cost compared to its viewership of course, but also how many subs watch the whole series, how long it takes them to do so if they came back to Netflix specifically for this show, what new subs watch first, etc.
Thanks to the Netflix weekly Top 10, we have some more insight into how well these canceled shows were doing. Well, we only have data for 4 shows out of the 18 so that might be already one inkling as to why the other ones were canceled in the first place. Here’s what we do have :
(Numbers are expressed in millions of “equivalent of complete viewings” obtained by dividing the hours viewed by the duration of the whole season of the series).
Out of the 4 series here, the most surprising cancellation has to be Hit & Run which did very decent numbers overall. Cowboy Bebop did bomb and The Baby-Sitters Club is another interesting thing. With the equivalent of 4,7 million complete viewings over its first week, it did ok but the fact that it did not make the list for a second week indicates that it sunk fast in the ratings.
Nielsen’s numbers also give us a bit of an insight into series performance:
To contextualize those numbers, they are still expressed in millions of “complete viewings”. Out of the 7 series for which we have Nielsen numbers (that only cover the US), the most successful one is The Crew. But it is also the 25th launch for a Netflix series out of 79 so that’s quite meh. Jupiter’s Legacy had the 30th best launch, Dad Stop Embarassing Me the 38th, The Irregulars the 61st, Cowboy Bebop the 73rd, and Hit & Run the 75th out of 79th. So these are pretty bad numbers in the US and if you’re looking for a reason to cancel these shows, look no further than that.
Finally, we do have the question of the series that are still in limbo as of the writing of this article.
Most will be canceled quietly, some might be renewed, just like Paradise P.D. which apparently will have some continuation according to an article from What’s on Netflix.
In the list of the series still in limbo, we do find some shows that had some recognition. We can mention Master of None (one good example of the limbo state since it took Aziz Ansari 3 years to do the third season), the german series How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast), and Biohackers or the Korean series Hellbound.
The German series Tribes of Europa that was released in February 2021 was a big European show but more than a year later, no word on its renewal so we need to assume it was canceled. Another interesting example is Yasuke, an anime series that was featured in the Netflix shop when it launched with some products. But for this one too, no word on a renewal came.
What about Into the Night? After two seasons and a tie-in series called “Yakamoz S-245”, we don’t know if we’ll have a conclusion for these two shows. And the list goes on.
In conclusion, when it comes to renewals and cancellations, Netflix faces the same problem as with the question of the quality of its shows and films that I covered in a previous article.
18 cancellations, that’s the equivalent of one cancellation every three weeks so you can see why people do feel that “Netflix cancels everything”.
But that’s only 7.8% of its shows in 2021, so a very small portion. The sheer number of shows Netflix releases has to come with a high number of “hard” cancellations but we do see more and more “soft cancellations” when series are renewed for a final season or even a final feature film. I think it has to be the way forward for Netflix as it builds its library for the future. Nobody wants a library with plenty of unfinished books.