‘The Get Down,’ ‘Sense8’ Cancellations Signal That Netflix’s Originals Are ‘Destructible’

The Get Down Netflix Cancelled
Courtesy of Netflix

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 “Sense8,” 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 community — 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 season-one budget for Luhrmann’s “The Get Down” ballooned from $7.5 million per episode to roughly $12 million. The first seasons of “Sense8” 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.

“Everyone makes mistakes, but very few have big successes. This is about the legacy ecosystem of TV being literally replaced by Netflix and Amazon.”
Rich Greenfield, BTIG Research analyst

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.

Netflix has promised a higher volume of shows, but while delivering on that promise, it has shifted aggressively into reality programming and stand-up comedy specials — two areas where production costs are dramatically lower than they are in scripted.

If Netflix anticipated a tapering off of international subscriber growth in the near future, it would make sense for the company to begin to try to put some controls on programming costs — while remaining an aggressive player in original scripted series.

“The Get Down” may have been a big swing-and-miss, but dramas such as “Stranger Things,” “13 Reasons Why” and “The Crown” appear to have captured the buzz that Netflix and all other programmers crave.

“Everyone makes mistakes, but very few have big successes” such as Netflix has had, said BTIG Research analyst Rich Greenfield. “This is about the legacy ecosystem of TV being literally replaced by Netflix and Amazon.”

CEO Reed Hastings doesn’t seem to be too troubled by the cancellations. “You should have more things that don’t work out, [so] you have to get more aggressive,” he said May 31 at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. “The drive toward conformity as you grow is more substantial. As a leader, you want to drive people to take more risks.”

Analytics firm 7Park Data is one of several companies that use proprietary technology to attempt to fill the void that Netflix’s refusal to release viewership information creates. According to the company’s data for the 12 months ending in April, the most recent seasons of “Marco Polo,” “The Get Down” and “Bloodline” were the least streamed new seasons of any hour-long Netflix original series in the U.S.

But at the top of the pile, other Netflix originals reigned. The four most-streamed hour-long series for the same period were the newest seasons of “Stranger Things,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Marvel’s Luke Cage” and “13 Reasons Why.” All four outperformed the most watched hour-long linear series available on the service: season one of Showtime’s “Shameless.”

Though Netflix has routinely dismissed such outside analytics, they lend credence to the universal truth that appears to be motivating the company — expensive shows work when people watch them, less so when they don’t.

Todd Spangler contributed to this report.

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  1. Dawn says:

    Just returned the favor and cancelled my Netflix. Can’t trust any of their programming now. Stop signing petitions-they don’t care. They only speak $$. Walk. Then they listen.

  2. VIVIAN WILK says:

    Sense8 is an amazing series. At least give us some episodes for closure. This was without doubt my favorite series. what a darn shame.

  3. Laura says:

    En mi obsesión por saber que hizo que tomarán esa decisión ya que se había de números, me puse a ver los números de seguidores de algunas series en Twitter y por ejemplo, Sense8 tiene más seguidores que algunas de las series de Marvel, más seguidores que Orphan Black que cierra este año con su 5a temporada, más que Hemlock grove que si cerró, más que From Dusk till down que si cerró en 3 temporadas creo, se le compara con Stranger Things que la puede ver público de diferentes edades o 13 reasons que incluye al público adolescente o con OITNB que lleva 5 temporadas o Las chicas del cable que es una telenovela, y miren que las telenovelas tienen muchos seguidores. El sistema para medir de Netflix no debe ser muy eficiente puesto que incluso una serie de CW que va por su 5a temporada y que se considera con buenos ratings tiene un número similar de seguidores en redes sociales. Incluso tiene más seguidores que Westworld de HBO, así que creo que definitivamente merecía mucho más. Puede ser irónico pero vi 13 razones y otros muchos títulos solo por qué al tener netflix buscando que ver veía otros títulos, de repente pensaba que ya no había mucho que ver y apareció el especial de Navidad, así espere a que llegara la 2a temporada pensando que estaba juzgando mal a netflix. Disfruté muchísimo las 1as temporadas de Orphan Black y si quiero ver la última pero es una serie de BBC no es de netflix aunque le ponen la leyenda. En fin tal vez pase como con Twin Peaks y en 25 años le den un cierre para los fans que sigan vivos e interesados (sarcasmo)

  4. Chuston says:

    Man U left to much of the story untold to cancel the show,if the show was going to cost that much u should have looked to co sell the show to hbo or starz, or something damn good show to be ended like this is just that bs

    • Chuston says:

      Talking bout the get down..wow

      • KatsCauldron says:

        no, I think they are talking about Sense8 we were told last month that some of the cast had already been signed and others they were negotiating with season 3 was pretty much assured, so we nestled in joy f another season to take us from the last season ending cliffhanger then they cancelled for garbage reasons which look very political. It is in line with individuals and shows that have been canceled or censored lately. Especially those involved in diversity or environmental issues. Sign the petition, bring back Sense8 for another season or give the rights to another company to make

  5. Affable says:

    Haven’t watch the get down yet but Sense8 was a pos.

  6. Kim says:

    The get down is a sleeper great show I wish I know about this one

  7. Idealist says:

    Sense8 was a cultural phenomenon and an important work of art. Netflix has mountains of cash, every decision needn’t be solely bottom line-driven. They are a patron of arts and cilture.

  8. Erica says:

    I love Sense8 why would you cancel a great show! #bringbacksense8

  9. If Netflix wants to cancel a series at least have respect for viewers and end with a final season that doesn’t leave us with cliffhangers!! We need season three to answer all those questions! Poor decision!!

    • davey1983 says:

      I know! It is not like Netflix is a business– it should spend millions of dollars on a show almost nobody watches so that the few people who like the show can get a resolution!

      • Dawn says:

        Over 1/2 million people petitioned to get Sense8 back…that’s not nothing, man. Netflix owes its viewers closure on its own stories. That is what we pay for…stories…not half-assed excuses for no endings.

      • KatsCauldron says:

        a few people? it had higher ratings than over a dozen other shows they are making other seasons of like 13 reasons that should have been put to bed at least by the thirteenth episode, teen wolf that is a real fog and you could go on down the line. Because they are a business, did little to no promoting of S8 and till it had more raves than just about any new series they put out if not the most.

  10. Raven says:

    Sense8 deserves to be seen by everyone. I’m biracial( my mother is white and my father is black). Even in this day and age, they’re are only a handful of shows that promote interracial couples in healthy, respectful relationships. Sense8 is one of those shows. It also promotes, self-love, strength, pride, family, optimism. and a strong sense of adventure. Instead of focusing on the horrors of the world Sense8 focuses on the beauty. Sense8 can change television for the better and I truly believe that cancelling it is an injustice to the art form that is TV. #RenewSense8

  11. Sony says:

    Glad they cancelled Sense 8. Hate how they portrayed the Black character as poor African with such depressing settings. While all other characters were rich in culture, intellect and well presented. Bye!

    • Raven says:

      The point of Capheus is for him to be in a depressing setting yet remain positive. Because he has so little he appreciates alot. His race has nothing to do withing, its just the fact that he was born into a poor country. Also in the second season,Capheus runs for office as a honest candidate that wishes only for the best of Nairobi

    • KatsCauldron says:

      he was portrayed with intelligence and heart and in comparison with the reality of most Africans in most countries over there much better of than the majority.

    • Mary Ross says:

      It was part of the story, if you actually kept watching, that was changing in season 2, because you know… development and all that.

  12. Hey so I think this article is not accurate enough, not sure whats going on with Sense8 but I do know that the Getdown producers, Sony, were sued by SAGAFTRA for holding cast members, the kids, for too long which I feel had a lot to do with its cancellation so…. Netflix originals destructible… I think not, I think the opportunity that Netflix gives independent filmmaker’s is amazing

  13. Hey so I think this article is not accurate enough, not sure what going on with Sense8 but I do know that the Getdown producers, Sony, where sued by SAGAFTRA for holding cast member, the kids, for to long which I feel had a lot to do with its cancellation so…. Netflix destructible… I think not I think the opportunity that Netflix gives independent filmmaker’s is amazing

  14. Margarita Tsugranes says:

    I really cant stand how many season #1 of Netflex series they have!! They really need to focus on building a series rather than making a 1 season and then to cancel a great season like Senses 8. I am really considering cancelling Netflix and cant wait until i find a better solution Don’t even get me started on the new rating system, It is the worst I refuse to watch a movie without checking on the ratings on social media. so so bad i am so disappointed and cant understand what Netflix is doing>

  15. Gussy2000 says:

    Reed brings back Sense8. Period.

  16. Diamond Burton says:

    This is CACA!! I’ve had Netflix since it’s beginning and I feel like I chose them over Hulu because they had better viewing options and they didn’t evolve into trickery like Hulu but this is causing me to have some serious doubt as to if I want to continue with it. Losing these shows are devastating! I am a true fan of The Get Down and have watched the whole series about three times! If a show is going to be cancelled there should at least be a movie to end it all. Or maybe a half season to end it, these people need to stop leaving people in the dark and cancelling shows. It’s like breaking up with someone and not giving them a reason! It’s just not cool!

    • B says:

      I completely agree. The Get Down was an excellent show and I was fully committed viewer. I’m extremely disappointed about the cancellation but more disappointed that we are left with no closure.

  17. mjweir0317 says:

    I’m pretty willing to give most things that are unusual a try. I know some people loved Sense8 and there were things about it I liked, but the Wachowskis have to get their s**t together. It’s not enough to build a magical world. You HAVE TO TELL A STORY. I imagine what happened is there were a lot of people like me who slogged it through the first season waiting for something to happen. And it never really did. The payoff at the end of season 1 was not enough to waste time on Season 2. I loved the Telemundo star. I liked the German hitman (don’t remember his name now). The women were all a complete waste of screen time. I’ve never seen such poorly drawn and feckless female characters. Even the 1950’s did a better job. How can you write a crappy weak role for a transgender character (and actress) who has experienced what you have? I just don’t get it.

    Anyway, it had a lot of potential but it just never crystallized, not in season 1 anyway. So I never bothered with season 2.

    And my guess is that is what happened to Sense8.

  18. Terry Clark says:

    Why? Put it back on

  19. KatsCauldron says:

    I know other people and quite a few f them feel the same way as I do about reality tv shows and stand up comics are all well and fine but you really only need so any different shows of something like that as few are actually brilliant enough to want to tune into for very long. Netflix had given every sign and hit that there would be a season 3 of Sense8 and we were all lulled into a false sense of security by that only to be side slammed with the opposite. Lasst I had heard before this cancellation announcement was that they were in negotiations with all of the main 8 actors that portrayed the base characters. Naveen had something else going artistically but he was peripheral and could be actually popped out completely with little problem. I want another season to tie up the loose ends and know allot of people feel the same. OB can only be cloned so many times yet they have been able to hold strong with a fraction of the art thrills or anything else S8 entails. Everyone is saying the same thing there really wasn’t allot of thought or logic given to this decision, instead it looks lie a buckle down to the norm like being tossed into a cardboard box with pablum.

  20. UMMA says:

    Why bother watching any Netflix serialized offerings. You never know when something will be yanked. If storyline/storytelling does not matter to Netflix, turn to some other provider.

  21. Jessica says:

    My biggest issue with the cancellation of Sense8 is that they didn’t bother to give it a proper ending. I notice that it wasn’t on the list of their least watched shows – it wasn’t for everyone, but I think the people that it resonated with didn’t just like it, they LOVED it. The petition to renew the show has almost half a million signatures now, which is a testament to how engaged the fans were and are.

  22. chung2music says:

    How can Netflix justify renewing 13 Reasons Why, which ended by fully exhausting original material though? While cancelling shows without any ending like Sense8? And those numbers are gross hyperbole, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Bloodline in no way would take $7 mil/episode to make. Sense8’s number is more believable due to in-location shooting.

    • KatsCauldron says:

      agreed, unless they figure another season will force any intelligent adult to bite their writ open and bleed to death on live cam. One season was at best all that show needed

      • B says:

        Absolutely. As far as I’m concerned that show was complete when Netflix made 13 Episodes to explain the 13 Reasons Why.

  23. aliciacctx says:

    It would have been great if Netflix would have promoted these expensive shows,but they didn’t, I saw one promo for the Sense8 Xmas special and nothing for the series as a whole

    • KatsCauldron says:

      I absolutely loved Sense8 and I found it like a diamond in dirt a there was no promoting on it at all

  24. Haz says:

    I loved Bloodline but $7 million dollars an episode? That’s ridiculous.

    • chung2music says:

      It’s a gross hyperbole from my guess. Bloodline doesn’t look like a show that takes 7 mil per episode to make.

  25. ncmacasl says:

    Instead of “Destructable” you should have said “Not Unbreakable” (a la Kimmy Schmidt)

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