Is Netflix’s cancellation spree going to cost them subscribers?
Coronavirus brought the film & television industry to its knees. Everything from production to exhibition has been a giant loss in 2020. Streaming services are the only thing keeping giant media companies, like Netflix & Disney, hanging on by a thread.
According to Deloitte’s Digital Media Trends study, about 80% of U.S. consumers subscribe to at least one streaming service, up from 73% in their pre-COVID 19 survey. They also found that the average U.S. consumer pays for at least four streaming services, up from three services pre-COVID.
Streaming services have been on the rise during the pandemic. But as streamers look beyond into, hopefully, a brighter tomorrow, they’ve had to make tough decisions about their original programming.
On Oct. 5th, the streaming giant Netflix decided to cancel the series GLOW, citing COVID-19 as the reason for termination. It’s the most recent casualty of Netflix axing shows over pandemic concerns. It joins The Society & I Am Not Okay With This as unrenewed shows. However, GLOW was in the process of filming its final season when COVID-19 shut down productions.
According to Deadline, “At the time of the shutdown, GLOW had completed one episode and had started on a second.” If you aren’t familiar with the show, the title is an acronym for the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, an actual professional women’s wrestling league in the 80s. It’s hard to shoot a show about wrestling when you have to stay six feet apart.
A source close to the matter told Vulture, “The pandemic delays meant GLOW would be unable to return before 2022 and that COVID safety protocols for a show with such a large cast would greatly increase the production budget. As a result, Netflix worried not enough viewers would remain committed to the show to support investing in another batch of episodes.”
Every show & film’s budget has increased due to the added costs to meet COVID-19 protocols. GLOW’s ensemble cast and wrestling stunts turned production into a nightmare during a pandemic. The show also films entirely in Los Angeles, and neither the city nor California will allow large-scale productions to proceed any time soon.
GlOW’s cancelation is a colossal disappointment. The show never wanted a long run and was wrapping in season 4. We understand Netflix is a business, but to say fans wouldn’t return to a show after an extended hiatus is purely speculative. GLOW is not on Stranger Things’s scale, but Stranger Things took well over a year between each season.
Sadly, Netflix will not lose subscribers in the process unless there is a substantial organized movement. Netflix’s business model is to turn over content frequently. If they continue the trend of canceling a show before it comes to a natural conclusion, they will lose subscribers. People are more accepting of a show abruptly ending because of COVID-19, but not when productions return to normal.
Netflix lucked out with GLOW because it only wanted four seasons. Netflix is known for only letting shows run for three seasons, if that, before axing them. They need to be upfront with creators about how long they want a show to run.
They have to stop reading the tea leaves to decide what viewers want, and set expectations instead of leaving shows in the dark. Let creators write an overarching story instead of seasons that feel like they concluded and have a reasonable out if they get renewed.
It shouldn’t be about topping the ratings but consistency. We love that Netflix always has something new to watch, but when a show finds its audience, no matter how niche, it still deserves a satisfying ending.
GLOW is another casualty during the pandemic. It wasn’t a giant like Stranger Things but it pulled in 1.33 million viewers in the first three days of season 2 and 86% of its audience was in the coveted 18-49 year old demographic.
If the canceling trend continues post-COVID, then Netflix will lose subscribers. As fast as streaming services gained subscribers during the pandemic, the fallout could be greater. Streaming fatigue is a real thing. People will look for a way out of their subscription. Netflix burning subscribers by canceling their favorite shows before they get a natural ending could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for some people.