The One Reason Your Favorite Netflix Show Might Not Get a Third Season

It can be absolutely devastating when a favorite show is canceled before it reaches a satisfying conclusion. Fans and the people who make the decisions about what goes and what stays are not always operating from the same place of understanding.

While loyal viewers simply want to see their favorite characters get to reach the end of their plotlines in a way that completes the story, entertainment executives are crunching the numbers to see what shows are financially viable and which ones are a drain on the budget. 

The harsh reality is that decisions about canceling a show are often not made based on the show’s individual creative merit. The calculation is often a shrewd determination of what will be profitable. For a streaming platform like Netflix, the decision can be even more cutthroat. Here’s why. 

Netflix changed the game for television programming

Netflix logo shown on a phone
Netflix | ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP via Getty Images

Traditionally, funding for television programming came from advertisements. Series that are able to draw enough viewers to entice big-name brands could continue to run for years at a time. That’s why shows like American Idol or The Simpsons are able to continue running season after season.

Even when ratings slump, shows like Grey’s Anatomy, which is in its 16th season) or The Walking Dead (which is in its 10th season, is able to soldier on because they still have enough pull to bring in serious advertising dollars. 

Netflix, on the other hand, does not rely on advertising dollars. It needs loyal subscribers and, most importantly of all, to add new subscribers each month to remain profitable. When Netflix first started its streaming service, it relied solely on existing content that is paid to license for a limited time. As more and more entertainment outlets launched their own streaming services, Netflix had fewer and fewer options to choose from. Instead, they made the groundbreaking leap into creating original content. 

Netflix’s original content has been award-winning

When Netflix first announced it was going to be creating original content, many scoffed. How would a small streaming service compete with major television networks and film studios?

Netflix, however, quickly proved the critics wrong by producing some truly high-quality programming. It was nominated for an Emmy (for House of Cards) the very same year it started launching original programming: 2013.  Orange is the New BlackStranger Things, and Black Mirror are all award-winning television series that have directly competed with primetime traditional offerings . . . and won. 

Netflix has been sure to diversify its original programming offerings. From silly to serious and from ongoing series to one-time films or limited series, they’ve mixed up their catalog to make sure they have something for everyone. 

Netflix series are quick to get cut 

Even though Netflix’s original series often do well, they are also quick to get cut. Business Insider conducted an analysis of the platform’s series and found that most only last two or three seasons. A rare few make it to six or seven seasons, and it’s literally unheard of for a series to go as long as primetime hits do. 

Part of this is because Netflix simply hasn’t been producing its own shows long enough to have a 14-season run yet, but that doesn’t mean fans should expect many (or perhaps any) of Netflix’s shows to make it that long. They need fresh programming to attract new subscribers, and a show that doesn’t have a loyal fanbase by Season 3 is unlikely to gain much traction. 

The cuts for Netflix’s shows can feel somewhat ruthless to fans. Even when they aren’t bringing in the numbers to justify a longer run, they often end with many people still devoted to seeing what happens to their favorite characters. Having a show end before its time can feel like losing a friend, but if you’re a Netflix viewer, you may have to get used to the sting of saying goodbye.