Magazine article Variety

Cancellations Leave Netflix ‘Destructible’

Magazine article Variety

Cancellations Leave Netflix ‘Destructible’

Article excerpt

NETFLIX PREDICTED LAST YEAR that it would grow its original programming lineup to more than 1,000 hours in 2017. What it didn’t say was that it would also do some pruning.

The streaming service last week canceled “Senses,” an odd and ambitious drama series from Lana and Lilly Wachowski, just one week after canceling another expensive drama, “The Get Down,” from Baz Luhrmann. That meant four shows unplugged over seven months - which, for most programmers, would amount to restraint. But for Netflix, which had cultivated a can-do-no-wrong mystique with a near unbroken string of renewals, the decision to start swinging its ax is an indication that the streaming service is not impervious to at least some of the pressures felt by its linear competitors.

What remains unclear - and frustrating for some in Hollywood’s creative cotttmmunity - is the lack of transparency around what lives and dies at the streaming giant.

“No one had the expectation that they were going to keep every show they ever made on forever,” one TV lit agent told Variety. “It would be nice to know the metrics they use to make those decisions, but we’re not going to know that.”

A second agent who spoke with Variety added, “The upside to not knowing the ratings and being able to renegotiate a higher rate based on them was the confidence that the show would be renewed. It’s sobering to see that Netflix is destructible.”

Netflix has been steadfast in its refusal to release viewership information comparable to the Nielsen ratings that are the currency for cable and broadcast TV, arguing that as an ad-free subscription service, it has no incentive to do so.

In the absence of that data, one common element of the four recently canceled Netflix series emerges - they were all among the most expensive on television.

As Variety originally reported, the seasonone budget for Luhrmann’s “The Get Down” ballooned from $7.5 million per episode to roughly $12 million. The first seasons of “Senses” and “Marco Polo” each cost a reported $9 million per episode. “Bloodline,” which just had its final season released, cost a reported $7 million per episode.

A typical hour of scripted drama on broadcast costs $2.5 million-$3.5 million - on cable, $1.8 million-$2.5 million.

For a company that claims a 2017 content budget of $6 billion, the price of each of those programs is a drop in the bucket. But together, they represent a very significant drop. …

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