Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos defended the streamer's nasty habit of canceling shows quickly, claiming that they have "never canceled" a successful show. That would be hard to hear for fans of shows like 1899, which charted on Netflix's Top 10 shows list but was still canceled after one season. Sarandos made his surprising comment in his first interview since Reed Hastings stepped down last week.
"We have never canceled a successful show," Sarandos told Bloomberg in a Jan. 21 interview. "A lot of these shows were well-intended but talk to a very small audience on a very big budget. The key to it is you have to be able to talk to a small audience on a small budget and a large audience at a large budget. If you do that well, you can do that forever."
Netflix subscribers often complain that shows are canceled too quickly, giving them little opportunity to find an audience over time. If a show isn't instantly successful, it usually does not have a chance to survive. That's one reason why author Neil Gaiman asked fans to watch The Sandman series as soon as possible. "Sandman Season 1 dropped Aug 5th. The data harvesting has only just finished – and is complicated by a lot of people not binge-watching it, but spreading it out, letting episodes sink in before watching the next," Gaiman wrote in September. "Telling [Netflix] to hurry up won't make decisions happen faster." Netflix finally renewed the show in November, even though it spent weeks on the top 10 charts.
Even success on the Netflix charts doesn't always equal a renewal. The sci-fi mystery series 1899 debuted at number two on the Top 10 TV English titles list, behind Wednesday, but it was canceled. Fans are still fuming over the decision. Netflix even took time to renew Wednesday, the most popular new show of the year. The show didn't get a Season 2 renewal until earlier this month.
Sarandos was promoted from chief content officer to co-CEO in 2020. Last week, Netflix announced that co-founder Hastings was stepping down as co-CEO, and chief operating officer Greg Peters is replacing him. Sarandos also dropped the chief creative officer title, which was given to Bela Bjaria. Scott Stuber was also promoted to Netflix Film chairman.
When asked what new shows Sarandos was most excited about, he didn't mention any upcoming scripted projects. Instead, he pointed to Chris Rock's upcoming live comedy special. He also suggested that live result shows for their competition series might happen soon.
"There is something very fun and exciting about a live comedy special; that's what we're doing with Chris Rock," Sarandos said. "It's going to add a different element to comedy. A results show of a competition show is way better live. The one bummer of our competition shows, even the people who love them will skip to the last episode."