This Is Why Netflix Keeps Canceling Its Best Original Shows

Netflix shows rarely last longer than two or three seasons. Why is that? Fans of these shows become frustrated, and don’t understand why their favorite characters can’t continue on their journey.

Compared with network TV, Netflix seems to be eager to give some of their best storylines the boot. Unfortunately, there is a reason why Netflix does this, and it probably won’t change in the future. Here’s why some of the best shows on Netflix get canceled. 

What makes some shows last longer on Netflix?

Netflix | Olly Curtis/Future via Getty Images

In general, Netflix will discontinue its original shows after two or three seasons, but there are some exceptions to this rule. Orange Is the New Black has just released its seventh season, and the producer of Stranger Things has just confirmed that there will be a Season 4 of the show.

So what makes these shows stand out from the rest? Stranger Things and Orange Is the New Black have both won a string of awards, including Primetime Emmys, Screen Actors Guild, and Golden Globe Awards.

And awards, more than anything else, encourage viewers. When a show has the kind of recognition that comes with winning multiple awards, more viewers are encouraged to watch the show, which translates into new sign-ups for Netflix membership — which is the top goal.

These high-performing shows are what drives membership, so those are the shows they keep around. 

Contrast that with shows that may have high viewership, but aren’t recognized by the media. These are the types of shows that those who already have a Netflix membership enjoy, but not necessarily what encourages new members to sign-up for the service. 

Netflix keeps its members by offering lots of choices

With most shows, two or three seasons is all a viewer needs to dive into the storyline and feel satisfied. When the show is canceled after that time period, fans may be disappointed, but there are always new shows being introduced to keep them with the streaming service.

Netflix finds it more cost-efficient to produce a large number of shows with few seasons versus only a few shows with lots of seasons. More variety in their lineup means more viewers will find something they enjoy.  

“At the core of their business is churn,” an industry insider told Deadline. This comes in the form of constantly introducing new shows, sometimes multiple new shows in a weekend. In this way, there is always something to grab a viewers attention and keep them from canceling their membership. 

Contracts with Netflix mean a show cannot move to another network

While many shows that are canceled on one network have found success by moving to another network, this usually isn’t an option for Netflix originals. According to Deadline, there is a standard clause in Netflix contracts that prevent them from moving to another network for two to three years after its cancellation.

This makes it impossible to migrate, because after that time period, most viewers have moved on and forgotten about the show. 

Another reason shows usually don’t last beyond the third season is because they become too expensive. Netflix contracts are usually structured to provide pay bumps after each season, and they get progressively bigger after each season that the show lasts.

So while they may start out paying hundreds of thousands, it can jump to millions once the show has been around for a while. For Netflix to justify paying out that much for a show, it must be consistently bringing in new members to the service.

If the show isn’t receiving outside publicity, by winning awards, and has only a loyal audience of Netflix viewers, no matter how large, it’s not cost-effective for Netflix to keep it around. Instead, they can introduce a new show that will cost them less, and still hook viewers by being new and shiny. 

Unfortunately, this means that lots of your favorites won’t last for many seasons, so enjoy them while you can. And luckily, Netflix will always give us something new to enjoy.