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Netflix defends the number of TV shows it cancels

GLOW
(Image credit: Netflix)

Has Netflix cancelled or prematurely ended one of your favorite TV shows? In a year that's seen the end of BoJack Horseman, GLOW, I Am Not Okay With This, Away and The Society, the chances are something you like has got the chop. But according to Netflix, its "renewal rate" – that is, the rate at which it brings back shows for multiple seasons – is 67%, which is standard in the world of TV.

"If you look at season twos and more, we actually have a renewal rate of 67%, which is industry standard," Netflix's global head of TV Bela Bajaria said at a recent Paley TV event, as recalled by Deadline

"We also do make a large amount of first season shows, which sometimes feels that we have more first season cancellations, but if you look at the renewal rate it's really strong."

Bajaria points to shows like The Crown, The Ranch and Grace & Frankie as examples of long-running hits on the streaming service. Like most streamers, Netflix doesn't reveal viewing figures for its TV shows – on traditional TV networks, you can find out if the show you're watching is in trouble when it comes to audience numbers. On Netflix, it's more of a mystery, so a cancellation can feel like it comes out of nowhere. The service tends to only release numbers for hit shows. 

Netflix's Ted Sarandos is quoted as saying it's "disproportionately" big news when a Netflix show gets cancelled versus series elsewhere – that's probably true, simply because the service is globally available, with shows released simultaneously. Everyone gets to see it at once – which likely means a stronger reaction when a series gets the axe. 

The old way of doing things

Sarandos also mentions the idea that the American idea of syndication – that is, reaching 100 episodes so a show can be sold near-infinitely to other broadcasters – is an older metric of how people view success in TV. When applied to Netflix, it makes less sense. 

"It seems like in this new age of television, the business model is a little different. The things that marked success prior to Netflix and OTT really had been getting to syndication, that was the goal and anything that didn't get to 100 episodes or past the four seasons didn't feel like a success, whereas I think many shows can be a success for being exactly what they are and you could tell that story in two seasons or one season or five seasons." 

That's all well and good – but probably not much comfort for Glow fans, who saw the wrestling-themed show get renewed for a fourth season, then later cancelled after one episode was filmed. 

It's an interesting glimpse into how the streamer views success, at least.