The timing couldn’t have been on purpose, but it also couldn’t have been better.
Yesterday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings went on record about the company’s original content strategy, saying that he views Netflix’s lack of cancellations as evidence that the company isn’t taking enough risks:
“Our hit ratio is way too high right now,” Hastings said. “So, we’ve canceled 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.”
I’m not sure who came up with this originally (I first heard it from ESPN baseball writer Sam Miller), but there’s a travel philosophy that if you’re never missing flights, you’re getting to the airport too early. I mention that axiom specifically because I’m not sure it’s accurate; the risks of missing flights, just as the risks of producing failing TV shows, might not outweigh the benefits of having non-airport free time. Or, to complete the half-baked analogy, taking creative risks.
Today, as first reported by Buzzfeed’s Jarett Wieselman, Netflix canceled one of their more creatively ambitious series, Sense8. Of course, that just happens to be one of the more expensive series, too, which probably played a big part; the sci-fi show is helmed by the Wachowski siblings, who made their mark with The Matrix trilogy. The second season had just premiered earlier in May.
— Jarett Wieselman (@JarettSays) June 1, 2017
Some fans are likely not going to be happy, and this likely caught the show’s creators by surprise, especially considering there’s a big cliffhanger ending to season 2. But, hey, at least Netflix is implementing this “cancel more shows” philosophy in record time. They definitely didn’t hide the fact that this might start happening more, although it’s not really in the spirit of what Hastings was saying.
It does hint that the audience for the show just wasn’t there, at least not relative to the budget outlay for production. Netflix guards viewership numbers closely, so it’s impossible to say, but Hastings did note that if we want insight on ratings, we should look at which shows get canceled. (Again, he just said all this yesterday.)
It’s also perhaps a sign that there’s only room for so many tentpole sci-fi series on Netflix, and Sense8 never crossed over with the wild success of, say, Stranger Things, which might need a bigger budget of its own going forward.