A recent conversation with one of my fellow Trenchers turned to the subject of whether or not any of Netflix’s original series might get a second season. Without delay I argued that so long as the particular series is good more episodes will follow.
Netflix Original Series Means Happier Viewers
My reasoning is that original content produced and distributed by services like Netflix is going to be judged by more accurate viewer data than anything in television history. Essentially, Netflix knows exactly how many people watch any given movie or series at any given time. I wouldn’t be surprised if this includes repeat viewings by individual accounts.
Traditional network and cable programs are pretty much enslaved by Nielsen ratings, which is completely worthless as a method of determining how good a show actually is. With only a few thousand boxes across the country accurate viewing numbers are nearly impossible to calculate. The other factor is advertising, a massively influential force behind which shows are successful. If enough people watch a show and advertisers continue to pay premium coin to advertise during that show then the show will continue. When viewership falls to the point where advertising dollars start to move away, bye-bye show! Of course there are other factors in why a show doesn’t come back, but for the sake of this argument I’m talking solely about what affords a series another season.
Streaming services, on the other hand, can see exact numbers and make decisions based on that information. Take a show like Hemlock Grove; I’ve only watched the first two episodes and I feel that it is better than 95% of all the other shows on network television. I have no idea if it will be renewed for another season, but that is precisely the whole point of my argument; there is no need for “renewal”. If over time it is determined that enough people watch a show to warrant another season, they will make one. Netflix doesn’t have to worry about where to fit another season into their upcoming schedule, or whether or not advertisers are happy about the results they see.
Usually everyone involved in a series (as well as the fans as well) hold their breath until word is handed down by their corporate overlords as to whether or not another season will be commissioned. This information is based on Nielsen data as well as advertising figures, and to a lesser extent direct viewer feedback. Netflix and other streaming services don’t have to worry about this erroneous and inaccurate data. If enough people watch a show then it is reasonable to assume that another season might be made.
I can see the future of content being a reward-based system. In other words, if a lot of people watch a show then streaming services will reward viewers with more content. This is my main argument. Since viewing figures with streaming services are not estimated or guessed but actually concrete, there can be no doubt as to the success and popularity of any given show. Only time will tell if these shows, as well as future ones, will have the same longevity as successful traditional series, but I’m confident that the way in which “television” is moving will lead to better content and happier viewers.