Either not enough people in the target demographic watch the show relative to other shows on the same ad-supported network, or not enough subscribers watch the show to justify the cost of another season. Sometimes there are issues with licensing from a non-network owned studio. But the answer is always money.
If the issue is money and viewership, and networks/streaming services already have all the data they need to make their decisions, can SOSs ever work?
Javier Grillo-Marxuach, executive producer of Middlemen thinks, they sometimes do.
“The thing is that they don’t work, until they do, and they work, until they don’t. There are a million moving parts to the life of a TV show”, he says.
“If the fans show up in enough numbers a campaign can work, but that also requires other factors to be in place, like that the network really likes the show, or maybe they own the show and the outpouring shows them they can profit. When you are dealing with questions of profit, it’s never as simple as sending bags of peanuts to the network.”
Going back to Timeless, was it the Twitter hashtag that saved the show? Or Sony dramatically cutting the licensing fee because some money was better than the alternative of no money?
Fans have to hope. Jill Macklem from New York is one of the people spearheading the current #FightForWynonna campaign to try and save Wynonna Earp.
Wynonna Earp is in an interesting position few have seen before; the SyFy Channel in the US has picked the show up for seasons four and five, but IDW is refusing to go through with its contractual obligations to make the show until it sells the international rights. For once, this campaign isn’t merely fighting against quantifiable ratings data, but the unknowns of international contract negotiations.
Macklem believes that networks and studios get more from an SOS than they could from ratings alone.
“I have to believe that, for instance, if there are four shows ‘on the bubble’ of being renewed or being cancelled and one of those four shows has a fanbase that screams and shouts and laughs and loves… you better believe I think that makes a difference,” she says. “Also, when fans speak passionately about the wider impact of how this show is more than just a show — that it is impacting lives, that it has made a positive impact in the world at large, that it is an important statement in a broader social issue — I absolutely think that is something that executives cannot and do not get from pure numbers.”
Nowadays, whenever a show is cancelled, the fans run to Netflix hoping they will save it. So, does Netflix at least notice these outpourings of enthusiasm from fans? Ted Sarandos, chief content officer from Netflix, after talking about seeing all the billboards fans buy outside his office window, sums up the answer in one word: “No.”
When asked for a longer answer, Sarandos says. “I look at it. I appreciate the passion, and it’s always a very hard decision, but [it’s too late] by the time you get there.”
Peter Friedlander, Vice President of Original Series at Netflix explains cancellation more nicely. “We want to make sure that we’re betting on shows that are going to get the right size audience for the show, and sometimes it just doesn’t happen.”
However, Sarrandos does leave the door open for SOSs just a crack. “I’d say this: it is the reason we convinced Lana Wachowski to make the Sense8 wrap up, which she did not want to do initially. But, because of the outcry of the public, she was willing to do it.”
Alice is a freelance journalist, producer and presenter.