Starting a new show on Netflix feels like a risk. If you like the new series you just watched, then there is a chance that season two may never happen because the numbers didn’t justify the means of production. Shows that take risks like GLOW, Get Down, and I Am Not Okay With This often meet their end too soon because the number of viewers and completion rates didn't satisfy Netflix.
At some point, viewers realize that Netflix doesn’t care about the quality of their shows, but the number of eyeballs watching and completing the seasons.
Numbers matter at Netflix
DC’s The Sandman is a Netflix series that is currently floating in a sort of limbo as we wait for Netflix’s ultimate decision to renew or not renew the big-budget comic book series. It's a popular show, coming up on its third week at the top of Netflix’s Global Top 10 list. Despite all this, we have to ask, will there be a season two?
No one really knows the answer, which is why comic creator Neil Gaiman took to Twitter to urge fans to watch and finish the series.
“Because Sandman is a really expensive show. And for Netflix to release the money to let us make another season we have to perform incredibly well,” Neil Gaiman wrote on Twitter. “So yes, we’ve been the top show in the world for the last two weeks. That may not be enough.”
The Sandman follows the cosmic being Dream (Tom Sturridge) through his journey to fix the chaos of the world that his absence has caused. According to Deadline, Netflix paid as much as $15 million per episode for the first season of the series, hoping that the number of viewers justifies the price tag to make a season two.
The series ranked number one globally on Netflix’s Top 10 titles three days after its release with 69.5 million hours viewed. After its first full week of streaming, The Sandman remained the most-watched show on Netflix’s weekly Top 10 list with 127.5 million hours of viewers in the first two weeks of August.
But Gaiman said that hours viewed don’t matter in the end. What matters is “completion rates.”
The importance of completion rates on Netflix
One Twitter user asked Gaiman if binge-viewing helps boost a show’s popularity on the streaming platform, and Gaiman responded, writing, “It does, yes. Because they are looking at 'completion rates.' So people watching it at their own pace don’t show up.”
While we don’t have proof of this strategy, we know that Netflix really does care about engagement. In an interview with Vulture, The Baby Sitter Club creator Rachel Shukert talked about Netflix’s internal metrics that determine whether or not a show gets renewed.
“I want to be very careful because it’s a lot of conjecture, but I feel like Netflix’s internal metrics can change month to month. Something that was fine three months ago is suddenly not what they need,” Shukert said. “As far as I can tell, everything Netflix does is based on how it’s driving subscriber growth.”
If a show is not a monster hit for Netflix, then does it matter?
Unfortunately, it looks like the answer might be no.
Netflix is hyper-focused on its current binge strategy to see what its audience finds entertaining, so the streaming giant knows what to keep making or steer clear of in the future. While most other streaming services have moved to weekly releases to keep their subscribers coming back, Netflix has its own internal evaluation system for what shows are worth the time, effort, and money it puts into making a new season. If a show doesn't live up to Netflix's expectations, then it's not worth the company's time or money.
Shukert commented on the streamer’s reliance on completion rates, saying, “Completion rates are a big deal, and our show takes longer to complete because it’s for a younger audience. Parents don’t necessarily let kids sit and watch six hours of television at a time.” Netflix can be supportive of shows that want to tell a specific story or take creative risks, but the data collected after the series is live becomes the most important element to a show’s survival.
How could this affect showrunners? Well, it may be that writers feel they need a huge cliffhanger at the end of every episode, just to keep people watching.
We do know the first 28 days matter at Netflix. So, if you like a show, get everyone you know to join your binge quest because apparently overwhelming engagement matters.
Let us know how you feel about binging series in the comments below!
Source: Neil Gaiman via Twitter