Netflix needs to stop canceling shows before they reach their full potential

The OA
(Image credit: Netflix)

I will probably never watch The OA – and that’s a damn shame. Probably. I’m not sure, I’ve never watched it. But, according to friends and colleagues that I hold dear, the series had transformed into something quite special by the second season’s conclusion. Yet, despite a mind-bending twist (which I’ve only heard about), Netflix decided to cancel the show, and I can’t commit to watching a story that will never have an ending. 

The OA’s not exactly an outlier, either. Netflix has made a habit of canceling shows before they reach their creators’ intended conclusion. The Society, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Anne With an E were all unceremoniously axed. Those are just the series with the loudest fanbases. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, American Vandal, and Archive 81 have been thrown onto the great pile of discarded TV shows.

The streamer (notoriously secretive about why it makes decisions) seemingly prioritizes flashy, name-driven new series as a way of enticing new subscribers. There are many mathematical loops to jump through to understand why certain shows continue and others do not, but Netflix undoubtedly has a formula or algorithm for working out which products are the most cost-effective for its purposes of internet domination.

However, that formula may need some readjusting. Netflix has announced that its subscriber count has declined for the very first time. There are multiple reasons offered by the company, and chief executive Reed Hastings has said they will be offering an advert-enhanced tier and cracking down on password sharing. Those both sound like ways Netflix can increase revenue, but there are two major factors that social media has jumped on for why they are losing faith in the streamer: prices increases and shows being constantly canceled.

Dark Crystal Age of Resistance ending

(Image credit: Netflix)

Pricing speaks for itself – many people simply can’t afford streaming services when everyday costs are going up tenfold due to inflation. Shows being canceled, though, is something Netflix has to reconsider. People are growing tired of cancelations. Just ask the #SaveTheOA group, who have been tirelessly campaigning online for the show to come back. Let’s consider what could have happened if Netflix invested in The OA. The dividends could have been great – because great series take time to come into their own. 

Just look at Breaking Bad. The first few seasons were a moderate success for AMC, Walter White’s saga proving a compelling story, though not one everyone was watching. Then the show arrived on Netflix, during those days when the swamp of content wasn’t too great, and everyone paid attention. Come the fifth and final season, all anyone was talking about was Breaking Bad. Game of Thrones, too, took years to build into the behemoth it became. The first season averaged 2.52 million viewers, while the last brought in 11.99 million. I’m not saying The OA compares to Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones – again, I really don’t know, I haven’t watched the show – but, considering the first season had a Rotten Tomatoes score of 77%, followed by a second season achieving a 92% positive rating, there’s every sign that continuing the series may have had fans getting louder, pushing more people like myself to tune into the series.

Now, a show I have watched that proves the point: Tuca & Bertie. The first season was released onto Netflix in May 2019 to rave reviews. Not enough people watched the animated series – which features the voices of Tiffany Haddish, Ali Wong, and Steven Yeun – and the series was canceled that July. Come the year’s end, multiple publications (including our own) called the series one of the best shows of 2019. In May 2020, Adult Swim announced that Tuca & Bertie would return, and upon the second season’s release, it achieved a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes and another season renewal at Adult Swim. 

Netflix jumped the gun when it came to canceling Tuca & Bertie, and there’s no knowing how many other discarded shows could have kept growing. Archive 81, GLOW, The Get Down, Sense8, Altered Carbon, Jupiter's Legacy, and Cowboy Bebop – what if they had been given the chance to develop properly? Not every series would have been a success, but Netflix has taken to only really investing in the immediately world-dominating series (Stranger Things, Squid Game, and The Crown) or cheaper reality shows (Love is Blind, Queer Eye). There’s even a question of whether Netflix’s original hits – Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Bojack Horseman – would have avoided Netflix’s guillotine for as long as they did if they were made today. Netflix needs to invest in shows that aren’t just splashy new series, otherwise the streamer will never manage a Game of Thrones of its own. 

Netflix may be annoying when it comes to canceling shows, but there's still great content on the streamer. Be sure to check out our lists of the best Netflix shows and best Netflix movies for more.

Jack Shepherd
Freelance Journalist

Jack Shepherd is the former Senior Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar. Jack used to work at The Independent as a general culture writer before specializing in TV and film for the likes of GR+, Total Film, SFX, and others. You can now find Jack working as a freelance journalist and editor.